Alert to how annoying it was when other managers told him who to pick for Scotland, Craig Brown isn’t instructing Gordon Strachan what to do.
But he has a hunch the current Scotland manager is already on the Ryan Fraser case. It would be difficult for him not to have noted the 22-year-old winger’s impressive displays for Bournemouth over the festive period, given they have come in high-profile, high-scoring televised games against Liverpool and Arsenal.
In the first match, which Bournemouth won 4-3, Fraser came on as substitute, won a penalty, scored his side’s second goal before setting up the equaliser. On Tuesday night against Arsenal, he played from the start, helping Bournemouth establish a handsome lead by winning a penalty for the second goal and then scoring the third himself.
While it wasn’t enough to claim all three points, Fraser was the leading contender for man of the match when he was forced off through injury after 68 minutes.
He’d already scored his third goal in five matches, using impressive strength to bundle over Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin before stroking the ball through Petr Cech’s legs. He was the one bundled over in the first half to win his side a penalty, Callum Wilson converting the kick to hand Bournemouth a two-goal lead.
Brown, who was frustrated to have to let Fraser go from Aberdeen during his stint there as manager, has watched the player’s progress since with interest. He concedes he might have been wrong when advising Fraser to stay longer for the sake of his career.
Brown feared the player’s Scotland’s prospects might be harmed by leaving for England. Now it’s hoped they’ve been enhanced, providing Strachan has been as impressed with Fraser as those watching Tuesday’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Arsenal. It brought back memories for Brown.
“Every team we played, the defender up against Ryan was booked or sent off. In October 2012, he was young player of the month, Niall McGinn was player of the month and I was manager (of the month),” recalls Brown.
“We were a point behind Celtic at the time. The next month we sold Fraser, Andrew Considine broke his leg and Ryan Jack got injured. Fraser was the biggest difference. By the end of the season we were playing for a place in the top six.
“Fraser had helped get us in a very good position – 13 games or so unbeaten. McGinn was playing through the middle, many of his goals came from Fraser.”
The winger’s development has continued in England, despite the timing of his decision to move south of the Border being questioned, by Brown himself among others. Now he’s pushing on the door of the international squad.
“I hated other managers telling me who to pick,” says Brown on this subject. “I would not presume to tell Gordon what to do, I didn’t like it when other managers told me to pick a certain player.
“I would not presume to advise Gordon but the one thing I am certain of – he would not let Gordon down. He could and I am sure will be a fans’ favourite.
“He could be used as an impact substitute – a ‘cheer substitute’ as we used to call them, like Ally McCoist. I can remember bringing on McCoist against Greece, it lifted the whole place and he scored the winner. If you were needing a spark, he [Fraser] is brilliant one on one against a defender. Once he’s past you he’s away.”
“He’s got the attributes of a Jimmy Johnstone and Willie Henderson but is not yet on their level, clearly. Henderson was very quick and Johnstone was very skilful.
“I played with Willie Henderson and against him, and against Johnstone as a full-back. Willie kicked it past you and ran, with Jimmy you had to pay to get back in – he had the guile. But this boy [Fraser] has got both, trickery and pace. I would not for a minute say he is at the level of the other two. But I saw him playing on loan for Ipswich at Preston – what a goal he scored from outside the box with his left foot. He is two-footed. He is a goalscorer as well as a creator.
“I am enthusiastic about him because he is a smashing boy – son-in-law material!,” adds Brown. “He deserves all the success that’s coming his way.”
He might be polite and good to his elders, but Fraser clearly possesses a steely resolve, hence him ignoring those who wondered why he was leaving Pittodrie for Bournemouth, of all places. He’s having the last laugh now.
“He has been vindicated,” agrees Brown. “Yes, I was annoyed when he left – I told him stay and you will be in the Scottish team. Because we had guys like Chris Maguire who was at Aberdeen and was in the Scotland team. Craig Levein picked him. But he went away down to England and got a bit lost.
“I had no say in it, the club needed the money at the time. And he wanted to better himself. You can’t deny a player that opportunity.”
The deal, reported to be worth around £500,000 eventually to Aberdeen, provided the Pittodrie club with some much-needed resources at the time. But it would now take a lot more than that figure to prise him from Bournemouth, where Fraser is contracted until the end of next season.