If 2020 had turned out differently, Ryan Fredericks would have returned from injury, helped West Ham United secure their Premier League safety and be planning for a summer both working with underprivileged youngsters in Africa and making the move into his new home.
However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic means competitive football is currently suspended, the right-back’s plans are on hold and all he can do is work daily on his fitness – and wait.
Fredericks is a naturally positive and optimistic person, and he has faith that things will get better, but he is insistent that football, or any other business, should not return if any individual’s health is put at risk.
“For the sake of everyone, whether that be players, staff or anyone else, football shouldn’t return until it’s deemed safe to do so,” he began.
“The players want to play, of course, and the fans want to see football, but we are all human beings first and we don’t want to be in a position where we can get the virus or spread it to our families.”
For the 27-year-old, that has meant following a remote rehabilitation programme to complete his recovery from the dislocated shoulder suffered at Manchester City in mid-February and running and cycling in parks near his Hertfordshire home.
Last week, he was one of a number of players to take the first step towards returning to training, spending an hour at Rush Green – alone, aside from the doctor on hand in case of a medical emergency – running around the pitches and doing ball work.
“It was a big positive to get back to Rush Green and run around the pitch, run with the ball and get a little feel for things again,” he confirmed. “It was certainly better than running around the park trying to avoid the dog poo!
“I’ve been working hard since my injury, following the fitness programmes given to us by the manager [David Moyes] and fitness coach [Josh Ewens], and I would say I’ve been running more than ever!
“While you cannot replicate a full training session on your own, you do find out more about yourself when you are training by yourself. I’ve discovered that I am motivated and disciplined and I’ve been putting pressure on myself to follow the fitness regime. As a result, I am feeling fit, which is good.”
Away from the pitch or the park, Fredericks has also been keeping his mind healthy.
A committed Christian, the defender is a member of the Hillsong Church in north London, which has been providing assistance to vulnerable people during the pandemic.
“A lot of players are involved in charity work, but they don’t make it public,” he continued. “Most footballers do not come from rich backgrounds and are very keen to give back to their communities if and when they can.
“Personally, I am a member of Hillsong Church, which is involved with a children’s charity called ‘Compassion’ which works in Africa, where people are living in much, much worse conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, to help children out of poverty by providing money, aid and food.
“I was supposed to be going to Uganda myself to do some work there this summer, but that will not happen now. Hopefully, when this situation is over, I will be able to go next year.”
There are forfeits for the loser and they had to sing some Justin Bieber last week. Dec’s girlfriend is a decent singer, but Dec is pretty awful!
In the meantime, Fredericks has also been filling his time like so many others, by watching Netflix, and holding a weekly quiz night with family and friends, complete with Declan Rice, Mason Mount and musical forfeits!
“Friday night is Quiz Night every week!” he laughed. “There are usually four couples involved – me and my girlfriend, Dec and his girlfriend, Mason and his girlfriend and my sister and her boyfriend.
“It’s not just a joke, either, it’s proper business! The winner takes over doing the questions for the following week and we’re all trying to outdo each other with music, picture and video rounds on things like adverts, catchphrases, spreadsheets and answer sheets!
“We are always up there, but Dec and his missus are normally down the bottom. There are forfeits for the loser and they had to sing some Justin Bieber last week. Dec’s girlfriend is a decent singer, but Dec is pretty awful! I’d love to share some clips, but I don’t think he’d ever forgive me!”