18 July 2024

Sometimes we all make silly decisions. It’s human nature. No one’s perfect. Of course, hindsight never helps. In football, we see mistakes all the time – just ask Tottenham Hotspur and Daniel Levy – it’s just ultimately about how you bounce back. But what about when that bounce doesn’t come and the drop just gets deeper and deeper?

In this edition of ‘Where Are They Now?’, it’s a case of stubborn self-assurance and a poorly judged transfer that sparks a spiral. Join us for a trip that moves from the Premier League and Spurs to Sweden’s second division, via the EFL and even non-league in between.

Who is Zeki Fryers?

Done Deal: Crystal Palace Confirm Move For Young Tottenham Hotspur Defender  Zeki Fryers | CaughtOffside

The subheading above is still likely a common question for so many football fans outside of Manchester.

However, a cult group will recall that Zeki Fryers developed through Manchester United’s notorious youth system in 2011 and slowly integrated into the first team set-up. He was a consistent defensive player and had been involved with England too, appearing for the U19 team as late as 2010.

Zeki-Fryers-Manchester-United

Unfortunately for Fryers, that year he suffered a serious knee injury that kept him out of action for most of the 2010/11 season. However, United kept faith in the youngster, and although on the fringes, made his debut for his hometown club on the 20th of September 2011.

When did Zeki Fryers join Spurs?

Although he was gaining more experience with ever playing minute, Fryers and United agreed that the left-back might be suited elsewhere. Grouped together as a want-away with the rebellious Ravel Morrison by Sky Sports, an eventual move to Belgian side Standard Liege materialised.

Admittedly, amidst Spurs interest, it wasn’t the desired destination. Liege were simply a placeholder as Tottenham and a somewhat bereft Alex Ferguson couldn’t negotiate through the commotion. Fryers only played seven league games before falling out of favour and then reporting homesickness to his agent. Cue Tottenham’s reinvigorated interest…

Zeki-Fryers-Tottenham

Where before they didn’t want to pay £6m, now they could get their man for half the price.

Now, although want-away, Fryers was still (like Ravel Morrison) considered a player of great potential. This was fuelled ever more by the media, as the left-back was branded a ‘prodigy’ by the Daily Mail when they reported his £3m transfer in 2012’s January window.

What happened to Zeki Fryers at Spurs?

After Fryers moved south, and regardless if the defender wasn’t particularly vital for Sir Alex’s squad – the legendary Scot was incensed by what looked like shifty Tottenham transfer tactics. This too, could have inadvertently raised the defender’s profile. It seems more logical that Ferguson’s ego had been challenged. He fumed:

“I’m disappointed in Tottenham. I think it’s a blatant manipulation of the situation. I think the league should look into it and I think they should stop his registration until they examine it.” (Ferguson, 2012)

So, did Spurs get an Ashley Cole regen as he had previously been dubbed in some circles? Well, no. He was merely a back-up for Benoit Assou-Ekotto and found slim pickings of game time.

All together, Fryers ran out just 15 times in all competitions for the White Hart Lane side before eventually moving on again. It did appear, like the only highlight reel the defender would be involved with, would be the transfer news and that alone.

Where is Zeki Fryers now?

Crystal Palace were the next destination – a £3m deal – before the slippery slope pushed on for a harsher decline. While at Palace, there were two average loan spells at Rotherham and Ipswich, featuring just 13 times across both stints, before 2017 saw a move to Barnsley.

Following two years there, and like some wandering football nomad, he was gone after 27 league appearances in 2019. Swindon saw another two years before Fryers fell into a non-league domino effect.

Zeki-Fryers-EFL

Stockport were next. Then it was Welling and Macclesfield even lower. Game time and confidence are all well and good but if only Fryers knew where he’d end up – finding exiled safety in Sweden’s second tier with AFC Eskilstuna.

In all of this, it’s easy to think Sir Alex knew what he was dealing with – especially when looking over the player’s self-assured nature at the time.

He once said: “I thought it was the right time for me to leave and get experience playing in a good league. You never know what will happen in football, but I made the right decision for me. Today I’m at Standard in the first year of my contract and I want it to be as good as possible. Maybe after that, I can go one step higher.”

That one step higher did come at Spurs, but unfortunately, it never got any better after that.

 

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