We’ve come to love Ryan Fredericks down at Craven Cottage because of two things. His awesome pace that takes him past opposing full backs in the blink of an eye – and a passion that refuses to accept the possibility of coming second. With that blistering speed, it isn’t surprising that Fredericks was a district 100m and triple jump schoolboy athletics champion, but that searing pace also caused serious problems as his early days in professional football – after coming through the Tottenham academy – were ravaged by a succession of injuries.
Having signed his first professional contract with Spurs back in 2010, Fredericks found his development hindered by spells in the treatment room and, despite impressing in European outings for Tottenham, had to go out on loan to find regular first-team football. He credits his loan spells with Brentford, Millwall and Bristol City as being crucial in helping him cut his teeth in the cut-throat world of the professional game – and his unquenchable thirst for winning made him a popular member of all three sides. Fulham swooped in to acquire his services when Fredericks became homesick after just 26 days at Ashton Gate and the full back’s pace, agility and desire to beat his man quickly established as a fans’ favourite.
Fredericks has seen plenty of changes during his time by the Thames but the one thing that hasn’t altered has been his place in the first team. He saw off the challenge of Jazz Richards to make the right back spot his own under Slavisa Jokanovic and worked hard with the Serbian’s fitness team to rid himself of the fitness issues that had limited his effectiveness at times. A lively presence down the right, Fredericks is now an integral part of Fulham’s fluid football that wowed so many as the Whites went so close to promotion through the play-offs last season. His partnership with Sone Aluko was a joy to behold and a pivotal part of Fulham’s surreal charge into the top six as last winter gave way to spring. Together, the pair put fear into so many defences as they ran riot throughout that memorable season.
There were once questions asked about Fredericks’ end product, both in terms of his crossing and the lack of return considering how much time he spends bombing up and down the right flank. His recent displays should have banished any of the doubts. He created the two goals in quick succession that saw Burton Albion cave in at the Cottage last month and supplied a simply sublime assist for Ryan Sessegnon at Barnsley that included two nutmegs at the end of a trademark lung-busting run into the penalty area. Had his initial shot gone in rather than rebounding off the near post it would have been a genuine contender for goal of the season, which might have gone some way to making up for the disappointment of having his first goal for the club – a rasping drive that set Fulham on the road to victory at QPR – taken away by the dubious goals panel.
That overwhelming win over Burton also contained, for my money, Fredericks’ most complete performance of the season so far. He was a threat all afternoon down the right side – making Nigel Clough’s 5-3-2 system designed to nullify Fulham’s attacking instincts appear horribly unbalanced – having a hand in four of the six goals as the Whites registered their biggest win since 2011, when Queens Park Rangers were also hit for six on a sunkissed afternoon at the Cottage.
Fulham fans fretted for most of January about the prospect of Fredericks finishing his Fulham career prematurely in favour of a tilt at the Premier League, with Swansea City, Stoke City and Southampton all linked with interest in his services. While Jokanovic got most of his what he wanted by the end of the transfer window, tying down Fulham’s formidable full back – who adds an extra dimension in the final third as a truly modern right back – to a long-term contract remains unfinished business. Fulham’s trump card, should the negotiations need to continue, might be that – for the first time in a while – the Whites are well placed to provide Fredericks with the opportunity of realising every footballer’s dream of proving themselves at the highest level possible. Let’s hope he’ll be lining up in the famous white shirt as Fulham return to the top flight come August.