Fleet’s newest recruit Ben Frempah has learned from some big characters in his time in the game (and they don’t come much bigger than Adebayo Akinfenwa) but believes now is the time to put that learning into his season ahead at the Kuflink Stadium.
Frempah, 25, departs Wycombe Wanderers with a host of good memories from the people around the Adams Park club and he feels the opportunity at Ebbsfleet will be his time to shine.
“Being around that environment at Wycombe allowed me to learn from players like [former Fleet defender] Darius Charles, Anthony Stewart and Adebayo Akinfenwa,” Frempah told the club website. “Even just training and being in the squad with them, I learned ever so much. Now with Ebbsfleet, I feel this is the moment all of that’s coming together and the chance for me to show what I can really do with the game time.”
Sterling reviews from Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth, who recently guided the Chairboys into the Championship, helped navigate Frempah’s path to the Fleet and the centre-back spoke warmly of his former employers.
“Ebbsfleet reached out to me with an initial conversation about my plans,” he said. “They’d had good reports from Gareth Ainsworth and [assistant manager] Richard Dobson at Wycombe and the club was impressed with my references. Ebbsfleet felt I was a good fit in terms of their plans and their direction.
“I’ve had a Zoom call with the gaffer as well and it was good to see what Ebbsfleet was about. With where I felt I needed to be in my career at this moment in time, the club feels like the perfect fit. The mentality of the club, the direction… it all feels right to me and I couldn’t wait to be involved.
“I’d have to emphasise the thanks I owe to Wycombe and the people there. [Akinfenwa] is someone I’ll be keeping in touch with regardless. He’s a brilliant individual and when you get to know him on a personal level, he’s so humble. He’s got a lot of wisdom and he’s shared that with me, in terms of the mentality to succeed, in terms of the way he goes about stuff. I just feel like it’s one of those opportunities now for me to implement those things I’ve learned from the people at Wycombe I’ve been blessed to be around.”
Frempah’s level-headed approach comes across sharply in his outlook and when asked about his strengths and his hopes for the season, he’s typically down to earth and focused.
“How can you put it without it sounding plain and simple?” he said. “I love defending, I love heading the ball and keeping clean sheets. But on the flip side, I love to also receive the ball, I don’t shy away from trying to play it. How to describe yourself, it’s one of those questions where you don’t want to say I can do this, I can do that. In simple terms, I’m a defender who loves to do his job, put a tackle in and never shy away from the ball in terms of trying to keep possession if that’s what the gaffer wants us to do.
“Wherever I go, I like to learn always. Wherever you go, every challenge is different. I’m coming here to learn from every single experience I have at the club, I’m coming here to listen and learn from the gaffer and the coaches and just improve my game. That’s how I always go about stuff… how can I be better? Even if it’s in training, every single time I put on a pair of boots is an opportunity to improve and that’s my goal.
“But you’ve got to put all that learning out there on the pitch. Once again, I can sit here and say we as a club can go and do this or that. But that’s not me, I’m really big on the next training session and the next game.
“With what the gaffer has said and the people in charge at the club have said and the vision they have, I feel like if we as players just focus on the next training game and the next match, then that’s the groundwork for an awesome season ahead for everyone involved. We’ll see what happens but if you do those things, they’ll fall into place.”
Frempah’s growth in the game, from non-league with Fisher and Cray Wanderers as a teenager, saw him leap seven levels to Leicester by the time he was barely 18.
“I was just starting to enjoy the life of playing week in, week out at Cray Wanderers,” he recalled. “I think I’d played about 12 games when the opportunity to go to Leicester popped up for me. At the time, it was a great chance. I really enjoyed the experience. I met some incredible people who I still speak to today. The experience of being a part of that sort of setup, around a team that at that time got promoted to the Premier League, that was awesome.”
Ross County was his next move and it wasn’t too long before he faced up to players of renown such as Virgil van Dijk and Scott Brown.
“Going from Leicester to playing in the Scottish Premiership, the difference then was I was going into that as a first-team player at the age of 19,” says Frempah. “At Leicester it was like a development team, U21s to U23s, and then going up to Scotland it was very much a case of ‘now you need to become a first-team player’. Just to make my senior debut in the SPL and play against Celtic was something. I really enjoyed my time but it was cut short around December when I had an injury. But I don’t have any regrets about that move, it was another awesome time for me.
“Then Wycombe really helped me get back to my levels. I signed non-contract and played against Charlton. I’d had a bit of time off football for a season or two for personal circumstances and I’d been to Guiseley and Solihull in that time, so when the Wycombe opportunity arose and the chance for full-time football again, I jumped at that. From the moment I walked into Wycombe, it was a real family feel and a great vibe and you knew you were welcome there.
“At the time Wycombe couldn’t offer me anything, but the gaffer invited me to keep coming into training. He put the ball in my court to keep myself in shape and get myself back to the level of performance that I feel I can perform at.”
Now Frempah’s certain he’s at a place to display his talents as the wheel comes full circle from his early days in Kent to returning to the county with the Fleet.
“When you’re young, if you’re not in a professional setup, you often come across teams like Ebbsfleet playing in youth or Kent competitions so I’m familiar with the club. I’m a South London boy, you know the clubs around here and I was here two or three years ago also when I travelled down with Solihull Moors. What the club’s about, what the club wants, it isn’t strange to me and I’m excited for the opportunity.”