Evening Express

Ryan Fraser on McLeish’s new Scotland regime: ‘It doesn’t matter what team you’re with – if you’re playing well, you’ll get call’

Scotland's Ryan Fraser comes close in the second half against Belgium.

Aberdonian Premier League star Ryan Fraser said he never thought he’d be coming up against world class players regularly in his time at Pittodrie and has backed himself to keep getting better.

Ex-Don Fraser, 24, who rose from Cove Boys Club all the way to Bournemouth, now flying high in England’s top flight, is gearing up for Scotland’s UEFA Nations League opener with Albania tonight.

The winger, who left Aberdeen for the then-League One Cherries in 2013, was pitched in at right-back in the 4-0 friendly defeat against Belgium on Friday and it was a tough evening, with influential Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard playing on the left for the opposition.

For the Red Devils’ second, Hazard side-stepped the Granite City native before firing a left-footed shot into the roof of Craig Gordon’s net.

Nevertheless, Kincorth Academy-educated Fraser, who now has four caps, is on fire at the moment for his club and thinks he can keep getting better.

He has played the entirety of the Cherries’ four league fixtures, scoring once and bagging an assist in the process.

Fraser said: “Every day (Bournemouth manager) Eddie Howe has the mentality that you come in and do better.

“If you come in as a player, even on a training day, and don’t give 100%, he’ll take you in the office and batter you for it.

“He knows every day he can make you a better player.

“This season I’ve started very well and the last two seasons I’ve kept progressing.

“It’s my third season in the Premier League now, and if I keep playing under him I’ll keep improving.”

Fraser reckons Scotland boss Alex McLeish, in his second spell, has proved he’ll pick players like Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie based on performances, not what club or league they represent, and that hard work is rewarded.

Shinnie made his long-awaited Scotland debut in the summer against Peru and earned a third cap on Friday.

Fraser, when asked if he ever dreamed of playing against world-class players at Hampden or every week in the Premier League during his time at Pittodrie, said: “Probably not, no – I always wanted to play for Scotland but it’s sometimes just a dream.

“You just get on with your football, but always hope at the international break you get that call-up to play international football.

“Obviously Shinnie getting that call-up shows it doesn’t matter what team you’re playing for with this manager – if you’re playing well, you’ll get the call.”

McLeish has admitted the Nations League opener with the Albanians, who they will also play away in League C1, as well as home and away fixtures against Israel, is a must-win. Topping the mini group will see the Scots square off against the three other best teams in League C for a place in the Euro 2020 play-offs – a vital second chance should the Dark Blues fail to reach a first major tournament since 1998 via conventional qualifying.

Fraser hopes Scotland’s three-at-the-back system can allow him, at wing-back, to get forward more against the Albanians after being pinned back by Hazard & Co.

He said: “I don’t think you can call it wing-back against Belgium – it’s more right-back.

“It’s difficult and when I did play it a little bit for Bournemouth last season it was when we had more of the ball.

“With Bournemouth we keep the ball a lot better than we did on Friday, as we’re not against the level of opponent we faced.

“Tonight it’ll be a little bit better.

“Against Belgium my role was trying to contain (Eden) Hazard coming over, his brother (Thorgan), (Mousa) Dembele. (Jan) Vertonghen was stepping in and it was sometimes four against me and John Souttar.

“I thought we did well early in the first half and later in the second half, but they got their goal.”

Fraser admits he prefers winger to wing-back, but he’ll give his all for the national side wherever he’s told to.

He added: “I’d like to (be further forward), but I can’t complain where I’m playing.

“I just need to get on with it as I’m in no situation to tell managers where I should be playing and what formations to play.

“Wherever I’m told I’ll do 100% that I can.”