This week finally brought a conclusion in the Fred Onyedinma contract saga. Having been linked with moves to fellow London clubs Fulham and QPR, the youngster has opted to stay put with Millwall, repaying the faith manager Neil Harris has shown in the player.
In what seemed like a lost battle during the close season, with almost months of ongoing contract talks Fred has signed a deal keeping him with the club until the summer of 2020. A deal which sends out a big statement from the club, it shows the benefit of playing in the second tier of English football.
With the signings made this summer and also the chance of playing in The Championship this season, I don’t believe it would’ve taken a lot of convincing by Harris to ensure Fred stays with the club. Now the deal is done, hopefully it will bring an end to the criticism the player received at the back end of last season and allow for the whole saga to be put to bed.
Wingers like Fred have always split opinion down The Den, at times they’re either the best player on the pitch and other times are almost non-existent in the game. In the case of Fred, a sense of realism is required for a player who is still only 20 years of age. The talent has been evident since his first start for the club at home to Charlton the last time we were in The Championship.
It will surprise some but Fred has already managed 82 first team appearances for the club, with 45 of those appearances from the start. It highlights the prime example of offering our own youth products the chance to feature and play a part in the first team. Much like Ben Thompson and also Aiden O’Brien, Fred featured for Harris whilst in charge of the development squad, offering him the chance then to step up to the next level following our relegation from The Championship last time around.
Give the ball to a player like Fred and ask him to run the channel, something he will be able to do with ease and torment any defence when full of confidence and playing to his best. Full of pace and trickery, it’s obvious what a lot of other teams see in the player hence the interest, however the only aspect holding him back is his end product in games.
Last season was actually his best return for the club, ending the campaign with six goals. Played mainly in the wide areas six goals for a player like Fred isn’t the worst return, however I can remember many an occasion where he might have taken his season tally into double figures.
Featuring up front in our first game of pre-season last Saturday, the question was again asked of where Fred should feature in the team. As in the above poll many seem to agree that up front isn’t quite the best position to get the best out of the player. Though it’s very close for the other two positions…
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In my opinion, Fred would be most effective in the centre of the park behind a leading striker. Trying to play in between the opposition defence and midfield his pace and skill on the ball would cause any central defender a nightmare. However with Harris opting for the tried and tested 4-4-2 I feel we truly struggle to get the best out of him.
Now in The Championship, we’re at the stage where one good season with a goal tally ending in double figures and players like Fred, O’Brien and Thompson would be worth millions. I couldn’t be happier with the player committing to the club, and can’t hide my praise for Harris and the board for ensuring the player is here for at least the next three years.