In one way, West Ham are coming to the end of an era at centre-back. In another way, a new one is just beginning.

Winston Reid has been a loyal servant to the Hammers over the years but is coming towards the end of his career.

The New Zealand international is now injury prone and he needs a long-term replacement.

Angelo Ogbonna, now in his 30s, is another one who may not be around for the long-term.

Fabian Balbuena, 27, and Issa Diop, 21, are the expected successors at centre-half but they still need time to adapt in England.

West Ham could look to bring in another promising young central defender to increase competition at the back.

With Declan Rice and Reece Oxford often preferred in central midfield, Diop might need a long-term partner at the back.

Could Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry be the answer? We take a closer look at this promising starlet…

About Dael Fry

Fry stands at 6ft 4in tall and is a man mountain at the back. Despite his young age, the 21-year-old is strong in the air and physical with his tackling style.

The youngster has already played 35 senior games for Middlesbrough, including 24 league starts.

In addition to this, Fry also played 10 games during a loan spell with Rotherham United previously.

Considering most teams are conservative when it comes to integrating centre-backs into the first-team, this is an impressive figure by the age of 21.

 

The England under-21 international has also regularly represented his country at youth level.

NORWICH, UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 6: (L-R) Arnaut Danjuma of Holland U21, Dael Fry of England U21 during the match between England U21 v Holland U21 at the Carrow Road on September 6, 2018 in Norwich United Kingdom (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images)

He earned a spot in the Toulon Tournament Best XI after helping the under-21s to the title in the summer. Fry was also part of the under-20 World Cup winning side in summer 2017.

During his senior career with Boro, he has played as part of a back three or in a back four, showing his versatility to adapt to different styles.

Winston Reid replacement?

West Ham need to find a cult hero like Reid to occupy the centre of their defence for the next several years.

In his prime, Reid was nearly impossible to beat in the air, tough to dribble around and his strength prevented many a striker from passing.

ROMFORD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 09: Winston Reid of West Ham United during training at Rush Green on February 9, 2018 in Romford, England. (Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images)

Fry has a long way to go before he can reach those levels but he certainly has the potential to make it that far.

After Ben Gibson came through the Middlesbrough ranks, Fry is the next central defender to show the potential to make it to the biggest stage of all.

If he continues to improve at the rate he has been, there is no reason why the Boro starlet cannot become a full England international in the next few years.

How would he fit in at West Ham?

If West Ham went all out to sign Fry, he would be one for the future rather than an immediate fix.

He is playing well in the Championship but needs time before making the step up.

However, looking at the long-term benefits of signing the towering centre-half, he could be Diop’s perfect partner.

The pair are both 21 and have proven themselves in adult football already. With age on their side, both Fry and Diop could develop a centre-back partnership which would be tough to penetrate.

KINGSTON UPON THAMES, ENGLAND – AUGUST 28: Issa Diop of West Ham United during the Carabao Cup Second Round match between AFC Wimbledon and West Ham United at The Cherry Red Records Stadium on August 28, 2018 in Kingston upon Thames, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Having a strong knowledge of your fellow centre-back’s game and ability helps form formidable partnerships.

If West Ham signed Fry, him and Diop could be a very solid pairing.

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