The Newcastle United player shunned by Steve Bruce who has been like a new signing under Eddie Howe
Ryan Fraser is enjoying his best football in a Newcastle United shirt at the moment.
The Scottish winger arrived on Tyneside on a free transfer in September 2020 after leaving AFC Bournemouth but struggled to secure a regular spot in the side under Steve Bruce.
Fraser started just nine league games during the 2020-21 campaign at Newcastle as fitness and injury issues scuppered his first season at the club.
But a reunion with Eddie Howe has sparked the 27-year-old’s United career into life as he’s since cemented a regular starting spot in the side.
Fraser has lined-up in each of the last seven league games for Newcastle and registered his first league goal for the club in last Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Everton at St James’s Park.
He has had to be patient, but he’s seized his opportunity under Howe. The Newcastle head coach knows all about how dangerous Fraser can be in the Premier League having overseen him register seven goals and 14 assists for Bournemouth during the 2018-19 season.
Although Fraser’s goal contributions still have some way to go to reach his heights of a few seasons ago, the overall impact his performances have had on the team are there for all to see.
His pace, energy and drive have made him a thorn in the side for opposition full-backs as he’s been able to put in several quality deliveries from the right.
Playing on the front foot, Fraser was able to peg Aston Villa left-back Lucas Digne back into his own half for the majority of Sunday’s 1-0 win at St James’s Park, nullifying the French international's impact.
Fraser is not only an attacking outlet for Newcastle, his defensive awareness and tenacity have been crucial in this recent upturn in form. With or without the ball, he will chase everything with intent – and that effort is all you can ask for.
But Howe believes the best is still yet to come from the winger.
“When we came to the football club [in November] I don't think he'd had consistent football since he left Bournemouth,” Howe told The Gazette.
"Every player benefits from that run of games. He has. I think he has looked physically better and better.
"The one thing I would say about Ryan is, even in the early games, his defensive positioning and decision-making was very, very good.
"I think we are now seeing more of the creative side of his game coming out, I thought he put one brilliant cross in [against Aston Villa] that we didn't get on the end of.
"I think he is looking an attacking threat and a nuisance with his crossing and attacking ability. I know there is more to come, too.
"It is exciting to see what the future holds for him here.”
Fraser is contracted at Newcastle until 2025 and Howe clearly sees him as a big player in his plans moving forward as he looks to steer the side to Premier League safety. It has been a welcome turnaround for the 27-year-old given his Newcastle experience prior to Howe’s arrival.
The winger played just 994 out of a possible 4140 minutes under Steve Bruce and didn’t make a single start this season until the former Magpies head coach left his position in October.
The winger admits he is partly to blame for his lack of impact under Bruce as he tried to resist having a dig at his former boss, who is now in charge of Championship side West Bromwich Albion.
Speaking to NUFC TV following his goal against Everton last week, Fraser was asked what his turn in form has been down to.
In response, he laughed: “[I need to] be careful what I say here!
“Since [Howe] has come in, he’s been working one-to-one with me and the whole team is playing better football.
“I don’t want to say anything negative about before. I’ve got myself to blame as well, I wasn’t good enough. I suppose this suits me a little bit better.
“[Howe] said to me the other day ‘don’t think about goals. First and foremost, run for the team, give performances I should be giving every week and the goals will come’.
“And the goal came, so I suppose he knows what he’s saying!
“Even going out to Saudi Arabia for team bonding. Small things like that, he thinks about everything the gaffer.
“Personal stuff that players maybe didn’t know, you respect more about them and it means you go out and fight for each other.”
Newcastle’s improvement under Howe quickly became clear based on the performances, but the results took a while to follow. Now the side seem to be reaping the rewards of the 44-year-old’s managerial approach following a run of three straight wins that has seen them climb four points clear of the relegation zone.
Perhaps the most impressive changes Howe has made have been with individuals like Fraser. The winger, along with Joelinton and Jonjo Shelvey, are just three players who seem to be enjoying some of their best football in black and white at the moment – and a lot of that has been down to Howe’s influence on the side.
With Fraser on the right and Allan Saint-Maximin on the left, Newcastle arguably have one of the Premier League’s most threatening winger partnerships outside of the top six right now. The pair will be crucial in ensuring Newcastle’s survival this season.
For Fraser, making the step up to the next level is just a case of getting among the goals and assists on a regular basis now he has effectively secured his place in the starting 11.
Maybe the positivity around the club at the moment is taking its toll, but you just get the feeling he is only going to get better.