Etherington Still Searching

Craig Etherington, released by West Ham in the summer, has still not found a new club a month into the new season.

His plight illustrates how a young player's career can quickly take a turn for the worse when the dream of making it at a Premiership club is shattered by the dreaded words:

'Sorry, son, we are going to have to let you go.'

Midfielder Craig is one of the unlucky ones; most of the young pros released by West Ham in the summer have remained in professional football.

Amos Foyewa is at Bournemouth, Terrell Forbes is earning rave reviews at QPR, fellow defender Stevland Angus is at Cambridge, while Tom Williams and Jimmy Bullard both played against West Ham for their new club Peterborough in a summer friendly.

Bertie Brayley, widely reported to have joined Swindon from West Ham in the summer [in fact he left Upton Park a couple of years ago to join QPR who took up his YTS contract] has also landed on his feet.

Gavin Holligan scored an excellent goal for Wycombe at the weekend and could well be the best bet to bounce back up the divisions.

But goalkeeper Alex O'Reilly, who left before the transfer deadline on a short term deal at Bristol Rovers, is back training at West Ham until he finds another club.

And even having the family connection of Martin Allen - a cousin - has not helped Craig get fixed up.

It is a salutary tale of life at the bottom end, and Craig admits philosophically:

"I think there were 600 players out of contract at the end of last season, so I am competing with them.

"I think I am good enough to bounce back but it didn't help that I didn't play many reserve games.

"There was a lot of reserve players last season, not to mention first team players coming back to fitness.

"I've just got to wait and see what progresses but obviously the season has started and the teams are settled.

"I am worried and I have to start thinking of other things to pay the bills.

"It is a matter of having to find a job, but I still want to play and find a non league team if I have to.

"If it means moving away I will but I would prefer to stay local because of my family."

There have been trials at the end of last season, and Craig says:

"I went to Reading, and I can't remember who the other club is - and i have been keeping myself fit over the summer."

The chances are, Craig will be a spectator next week when the Hammers take on Reading in the Worthington Cup - dreaming of being out on the park.

"I will still watch West Ham," he says, " and keep in touch with a few who left.

"We have been together for years, so I've made a lot of friends, such as  Grant McCann and a few of the others.

The hope is that a player with Craig's grounding at West Ham will find his feet in the game.

In the mean time, it is just a case of waiting for the phone to ring.

"I think I am good enough - it is just getting the chance to prove it," he says wistfully.