There isn’t a finer sight at Craven Cottage these days then seeing Ryan Fredricks flying at full speed down the Fulham right. The plaudits might go to Ryan Sessegnon for his precocious talent and peerless performances on the other flank, whilst the creativity of Tom Cairney and – most recently – the goalscoring prowess of Aleksandr Mitrovic have garnered plenty of praise, but Fredericks’ own importance to Slavisa Jokanovic’s push for the Premier League can’t be understated. His surges deep into opposition territory show just how wide an array of weapons the Whites possess and it was fitting that yesterday’s vital victory at fellow promotion candidates Derby County was the right back’s hundredth appearance in a Fulham shirt.
Fredericks will be the first to admit that he’s come on leaps and bounds since arriving at Craven Cottage after the briefest of spells at Bristol City in August 2015. The full back, a regional sprinting champion in his school days, showed plenty of early promise – especially in a scintillating first Fulham start when QPR were hit for four on an electric Friday night under the Cottage lights – but he struggled to maintain those blistering periods of attacking brilliance for a full ninety minutes in his first season down by the River Thames. The instillation of Slavisa Jokanovic as Kit Symons’ permanent successor and the Serbian’s decision to give Fredericks the freedom to gallop down the right flank proved a real turning point – as the former Tottenham defender saw off the challenge of Jazz Richards to firmly establish himself as Fulham’s first choice right back.
Fredericks’ fitness and stamina have greatly improved since Marco Ceserani’s appointment as the first team’s senior sports scientist and his pace has become even more pivotal to Fulham’s prospects. His speed is vital in helping him make those crucial recovery runs to bail out a team-mate or tracking the runs of a particularly tricky winger. In the past, Fredericks’ defensive capabilities have been hit and miss against some of the division’s best wide man, but he’s a much improved defender these days – and I felt his superb timing in the tackle set the down perfectly in the recent win over league leaders Wolves. Of course, it is in the final third where his speed has proven most effective and, when an opposition is already struggling to contain the fluid movement of Jokanovic’s chosen front three, Fredericks’ overlapping runs from right back can prove devastating.
He has gradually become more productive at that end of the pitch too. Where sometimes his crossing could previously have been described as erratic, the full back’s composure doesn’t desert him too often when he gets into the prime delivery positions these days. The two crosses he put in to break the back of Burton’s defensively-minded system in December were magnificent and there are hardly an outlier. The full-back has six assists to his name this year and could very easily have grabbed a goal too, were it not for the dubious goals panel reclassifying his long-range strike at Loftus Road as an own goal. As Alan wrote the other week, there’s little doubt now that Fredericks’ fierce desire to win has made him a firm favourite with the Fulham fans too.
The turn of the year brought plenty of speculation linking Fredericks with a move to the Premier League, but like the rest of Jokanovic’s key performers, the 24 year-old flier stayed put. It is no surprise that the likes of West Ham, Southampton and Swansea City covet the Whites’ right back, given that he embodies what modern managers want from a marauding full back. Fredericks’ remains fully focused on trying to earn a route back to the top flight through promotion with the Whites, although after such an impressive first century of appearances the Fulham faithful will hope his race down the Cottage right flank is far from run.