Talking Point

UPDATE, 17:15, Tuesday 5th June: West Ham United have now officially announced Ryan Fredericks as Manuel Pellegrini’s first signing as Hammers manager. As outlined in this article, I have my concerns regarding this signing and hope Fredericks can improve on his record of 31 yellow cards and one red in the last three seasons. I wish him all the very best in this next chapter of his career – welcome to the Irons, Ryan.

With Ryan Fredericks looking set to sign for West Ham United early this week, Iain asked me to pen an article regarding our potential new player.

Ryan Fredericks was born in Hammersmith on 10th October 1992. He came through Tottenham’s Academy and was named on the bench for the senior side’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth round replay victory over Leeds at Elland Road in February 2010. Injury would keep him out for almost a year but he would make a senior debut for Tottenham under Harry Redknapp in their goalless draw with Hearts in the UEFA Europa League Play-Offs in August 2011, before featuring twice in the Group Stage. He played nine minutes of a 0-0 draw at PAOK Salonika and the full match away to Rubin Kazan which ended in a 1-0 defeat. Fredericks also made one appearance for England Under-19s but found his path blocked by Nathaniel Clyne and Andre Wisdom at Under-21 level. He is eligible to represent Guyana.

Andre Villas-Boas did not give Fredericks any game time in 2012/13, opting to loan him to Brentford instead. Fredericks turned 20 while with the League One side and made his Football League debut for the Griffin Park club, playing three minutes of a goalless draw at Bury in August 2012. He made one start in his time with the club, playing 56 minutes of a 1-1 draw at Tranmere.

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Fredericks was finally handed a start by Villas-Boas in a Europa League Group Stage match against Anzhi Makhachkala in December 2013, but it would prove to be the Portuguese manager’s penultimate match in charge of Spurs. Fredericks won a penalty in the 4-1 victory at White Hart Lane. Tim Sherwood loaned Fredericks to Millwall and the right-back scored on his debut for the Lions in a 1-0 win over Ipswich at The Den. He made eleven starts for the club.

New Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino sent Fredericks on a season-long loan to Middlesbrough for the 2014/15 campaign. He made 18 starts in all competitions with the Teessiders, including cup matches at Liverpool and Arsenal, but failed to register a goal or assist while with the club and picked up five yellow cards. After Fredericks sustained a hamstring injury in February 2015, manager Aitor Karanka opted to select midfielder Dean Whitehead at right-back even after Fredericks had recovered from injury. Fredericks only played one more game after recovering from injury, at Fulham – ‘Boro were 2-0 down when Fredericks was hauled off after 61 minutes. His replacement, Adam Reach, scored within two minutes to halve the deficit but Fulham would go on to win the match 4-3. Fredericks was not named in Karanka’s squad in the Teessiders’ subsequent run to the Play-Off Final, which they lost to Norwich.

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Pochettino allowed Fredericks to leave the club permanently in the summer of 2015, with the 22-year-old signing for Steve Cotterill’s Bristol City. He made five appearances for his new club before requesting a move for personal reasons. He returned to London just 26 days after signing for Bristol City, joining fellow Championship side Fulham, then managed by Kit Symons. He made 26 league starts and ten substitute appearances for the Cottagers in 2015/16, registering no goals, one assist and 11 yellow cards (he was also booked twice that season for Bristol City, taking his tally to 13 for the campaign). Fulham finished 20th, conceding 79 goals, the third worst defensive record in the Championship that season.

An ankle injury kept Fredericks out for the opening two months of 2016/17 but he made his return under Slavisa Jokanovic in October of that season. He made 28 starts and five substitute appearances as Fulham finished sixth, registering no goals, six assists and eight yellow cards. Fredericks was also sent off for a late lunge on Craig Gardner in the 68th minute with the score 0-0 at Birmingham in February 2017 – the Blues went on to win the match 1-0, with Jokanovic saying “The situation with Ryan Fredericks killed us in one very complicated moment for us where we tried to push and win the game. The situation was a real setback.” Fredericks missed three matches through suspension, including an FA Cup fifth round match at former club Tottenham. The Cottagers would be defeated by Reading in the Play-Off Semi-Finals.

Fredericks made 48 appearances last season (2017/18), registering nine assists and collecting ten yellow cards. He was named in the Championship Team of the Year. Fulham were promoted with victory over Aston Villa in the Play-Off Final but Fredericks could have conceded a penalty in the match and could have been sent off for a stamp on Jack Grealish in a separate incident.

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Fredericks, who turns 26 in October, has made 114 goalless appearances for Fulham, registering 15 assists and 29 yellow cards. He has made 161 appearances across all his clubs, with his only goal being the aforementioned strike on his Millwall debut. It is clear from various reports that he has pace to burn but his passing success rate across 2017/18 was 76.7%, placing him 22nd out of 25 outfield players who appeared for Fulham last season. This suggests he can get himself into good positions with his pace but is not accurate enough with his passing. His disciplinary record is also concerning and could cause even greater problems with trickier opposing players in the Premier League.

Speaking personally, I have to say that I would not be overly impressed were we to sign Ryan Fredericks. I do firmly believe that right-back must be the priority position for us to strengthen this summer but I was hoping we would set our sights higher. As a club, we have hardly paid a transfer fee for a decent right-back since the turn of the century. Sebastien Schemmel cost a relative pittance from Metz and was fantastic for a season; Tomas Repka mostly played centre-half and was a defensive and disciplinary liability; Lionel Scaloni was experienced but a short-term measure on loan; Tyrone Mears, Jonathan Spector and John Paintsil were all rank average at best; Lucas Neill was signed on a free and did a great job for two and a half seasons; Lars Jacobsen was experienced but another brief stop-gap, as were Guy Demel and Joey O’Brien who both suffered from injuries; Carl Jenkinson was a loan signing twice over; and Alvaro Arbeloa was another short-term measure that spectacularly failed.

Pablo Zabaleta at least offered consistency last season and was almost ever-present but, again, is not a long-term solution. Sam Byram is a forward-thinking right-back who has come in for criticism for being too attack-minded and defensively naïve – both criticisms that could be aimed at Fredericks, except Byram is a year younger. I don’t see a lot different between Byram and Fredericks – both highly-rated Championship right-backs, both good going forward, both pick up their share of bookings. If Fredericks signs, he will of course have my full support – but I think we should be taking an opportunity to resolve our long-standing right-back issues with a more proven player.