Ryan Fraser, the Bournemouth winger who is expected to make his Scotland debut against Canada tonight, has put his upturn in fortunes down to being cured of negative thinking by a sports psychologist.
Fraser, who has also spoken of the abuse he received from Aberdeen fans after leaving the Pittodrie club to join Bournemouth, believes his breakthrough in the English Premier League “vindicates” his decision to move south after just 23 first-team appearances.
But he credits his recent promotion to first-team regular to being sent to a sports psychologist by manager Eddie Howe, who felt the winger’s progress was being hampered by a crushing lack of self- confidence.
Fraser can remember the moment he, too, knew he had a problem to overcome, after coming on as a late substitute against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season.
“I came on against Spurs in the 85th minute and had a one-on-one with [full-back] Danny Rose,” the 23-year-old recalled. “It was 0-0, the lads had just been working hard. And I didn’t take him on. I passed it back.”
Fraser was later asked why he’d been so timid. “I said I didn’t want to losethe ball and they run in and score and then that’s all the lads’ hard work gone. He [the sports psychologist] asked: ‘But what if you took him on and crossed the ball and we scored from it?’ I hadn’t really thought of that. I had gone to the negative output, the safer output. That was the type of stuff holding me back.”
Fraser, after exploding onto the scene with a match-winning substitute appearance in a 4-3 win over Liverpool in December, has started Bournemouth’s last 11 matches. Now the winger looks set to make his international bow in the friendly at Easter Road tonight as manager Gordon Strachan seeks a new formula to re-ignite Scotland’s World Cup hopes.
The in-form Fraser could well become a Tartan Army favourite after reaping the benefits of positive thinking.
“I got the chance v Liverpool and I took it,” he said. “I have just stepped on from there really. I didn’t really want to be known as an impact player because obviously in the last three years, except in my time at Ipswich [on loan], I have been coming on in most games and getting 25 minutes and trying to get a goal or an assist to help the team. But now I am starting to feel like I am growing as a player.
“For me I need a manager that gives me confidence and if I have confidence I am a different player really,” he explained. “I was quite negative. I went to see a psychiatrist to try to help me stop being so negative and that’s helped me out. If you are doing well you grow from it.”
Howe, who Fraser tips as the next England manager, is a passionate believer in the benefits of sports psychology.
“We had a team one already,” said Fraser. “But he obviously saw I am quite negative in the way I play and the way I thought and he got someone to help me out with that. It seems to be working.
“I was kind of scared [at first]. They are kind of judging you every moment. I would have my arms crossed and he’d be like: ‘that’s negative!’ But he helped me out a lot. He is in with the club full-time now and helping out with other players.”