RYAN Fraser reckons a pep talk from the man he affectionately dubs the “future manager of England” can deliver a dividend for Scotland right now.
The little winger has already made a big impact for Bournemouth in the early weeks of the English Premier League, hitting two goals and supplying two assists in the first five games.
More impressively still, he is joint second with Andy Robertson in number of chances created for his team-mates.
The Scotland pair have nine, which is bettered only by Robertson’s Liverpool team-mate Mo Salah, who leads the division with 12.
It is outstanding form, and Fraser credits it to a change in attitude sparked by a conversation with his club boss, Eddie Howe.
Howe threatened to drop him unless the 5ft 4in star, well, started standing out more.
“This season I have tried to be the main man,” said Fraser.
“When I say that, I mean make more of an impact than I have done in previous seasons.
“I want to be the one to change games, which is a massive thing at Premier League level.
“I am 24 now, and it is my sixth season in England. I started out in League One and then the Championship and now we are in the top flight.
“So I know if my career is to get to where I want it to go, then I need to step things up again.
“I think I have always grown as a player as we have come up the divisions. But the manager spoke to me and said he believes that I can do even more.
“He said my mindset had to change because if I didn’t, he would pick someone else over me.
“I took it all on board, and it couldn’t have gone much better, personally and for the team.
“The Salah stat is a particularly pleasing one, and it is good to see Robbo up there as well.
“Obviously, bigger teams have more chances, and I’m not going to beat Mo because he will get about seven or eight chances in a game whereas I might get one or two.
“But if I can keep creating these chances and, hopefully, taking a number of them myself, then that will be great.
“I had very good chances against Chelsea last weekend and didn’t take them. But on another day, I could have had two or three goals.
“I think it might be partly because the Premier League is more about technical ability now, rather than everyone just being quick and strong.
“The one thing I noticed when I stepped up to the top flight is that no defender is slow.
“It used to be that you would get some defenders who were, but they were always tall and physically tough.
“There is definitely room for some smaller players if they have the technical ability.
“Manchester City have David Silva and Raheem Sterling and, of course, Chelsea have Eden Hazard, who is on a whole different level.
“I love to watch Hazard, not just for enjoyment but to try to see ways I can improve my own game.
“So, although it’s early days, it has been a good start, very enjoyable, and I feel this could be a big season for me.
“lf I can keep this form going, that will go a long way to helping me achieve my aims.
“What I say about wanting to be the game changer applies for Scotland as well as Bournemouth – if I play.
“So far, I only have four caps, two as a substitute. But I want to prove in training that I can be relied on if called upon.
“If I am, then I will just be doing what I do for Bournemouth and trying to take that into this team.
“I’m not really targeting caps. But if I am called upon, I want to do my best in each game, which is all I can do.
“I still have a long way to go, but hopefully the start of this campaign can be the start of something big.”
Fraser’s caveat: “If I play” is significant.
He has, he stresses, no interest in getting involved in a three-way contest with Robertson and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney for the left-back spot.
His commitment to the national cause is not in doubt, however, witness his effort during Friday night’s humbling against Belgium, where he played as a right-side wingback.
“I am a left-midfielder, not a wingback,” he said.
“It is the graveyard shift and you don’t get the ball a lot. I only played there for Bournemouth last season because of injuries.
“We played that formation quite a lot, and not many players at the club could play there. So I had to take it upon myself to sacrifice my own needs.
“It was tough because I had started off really well last season, and scored four goals pretty quickly. But then I moved to right wing-back and stopped scoring!
“We spoke about it at the end of the season, and Eddie Howe was grateful for what I had done in that position.
“We agreed, however, that long-term it is definitely not my position.
“Left-mid is my preferred position, and it is where I have got all my goals and assists over the last three years.”
Fraser is very clearly a fan of Howe, and laughs when acknowledging the other players have in the past tagged him as the teacher’s pet.
As the same time, though, he makes a point of giving a special nod to former Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, for the cameo role he has played in his career.
“Eddie is a terrific manager, a future manager of England, and he has been a big influence on me, especially in terms of developing my game,” said the Scot.
“It has been about getting every bit of my game and improving it.
“It is about the marginal gains and the little one percenters that improve and change you as a player.
“My time at Ipswich Town was hard. It was Bournemouth’s first season in the Premier League and I came back fit but I didn’t even get to train with the team.
“Eddie Howe just told me that I was going out on loan.
“So I just got on with it and that turned out to be massive for me because Mick McCarthy did me the world of good.
“If I hadn’t gone there at that time, I don’t think I would be playing in the Premier League now.
“Mick is a different manager from Eddie Howe, and not so much about improving you on the training pitch but doing so much for you to boost your confidence.
“In football these days, there’s so many things you need to think of.
“Mick McCarthy just stripped everything back and said: ‘Go and play your game. Wherever you want to be, just go and get the ball and do your thing’.
“I don’t think I really believed in myself when I first went there.
“But he got me believing in myself and changed everything.
“I was only 18 when I went down to Bournemouth from Aberdeen and struggled a bit, what with not having my family down there.
“Eddie Howe noticed. That is another thing he is good at. He likes to know about your family and what you like and the more he knows, the more he can help you.
“I thought he would have left Bournemouth early-doors. But the type of manager he is, I think he wants to make sure everything’s set in stone and make sure they’re an established Premier League side.
“He thinks we can finish top-six soon, if he can keep getting the players and keep improving us.
“And then you never know what he’ll do.
“Certainly, I think the England job is in his future.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe