Ryan Fraser admits he got “battered” for not to playing for Bournemouth during their relegation run in – but stands by his controversial decision.
The winger, who switched to Newcastle this week, refused to extend his contract during the summer to cover the Premier League restart, fearing an injury could wreck his chances of a lucrative free transfer.
Fraser concedes he was “looking after myself” and says he was “gutted” his spell at the Cherries ended with relegation to the Championship.
The Scotland international said: “I made the decision not to play, and got battered for it. At the end of the day I need to look after myself.
“My contract was done, so it’s not like I refused to play any games. Nobody saw this virus coming. If the virus didn’t come I would have played every game under my contract.
“Some lads in the Premier League signed an extension, and fair play to them. But for me, at my age, knowing that this club (Newcastle) wanted me, it was just a decision I had to make.
“I’m going to get criticised. I want to put it past me. I want to start this new project, and I just want to show everybody what I’m about and start making new history.
“The worst thing is that I didn’t want them to go down – it would have been a lot easier if they had stayed up. With me playing, without being big headed, I think I would have helped massively.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I wasn’t sad. I was gutted. With the years I had there coming from League One to the Premier League, it was never how I wanted to end it.”
He has held talks with ex boss Eddie Howe and current Bournemouth boss Jason Tindall.
He added: “I wish them the best of luck for the season. Two weeks ago I met Eddie Howe in a coffee shop and spoke to him for about an hour. There are no hard feelings with me and then – it’s obviously the fans, who wanted me to play.
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Fraser is unlikely to start for Newcastle against West Ham after having his fitness levels tested this week. He is prepared to wait and earn a start.
On his ambitions on Tyneside, the play-maker said: “You should always try and beat your points total from the season before. I think top ten, we can get in there.
“The top six right now, the money spent, the players, but there’s no reason in years to come with the players we’ve got and the manager we’ve got, I’m not saying we can get there, but we just want the fans to be buzzing. I want to go for the top ten 100 per cent.”
He has been reading up on psychology and maintaining a strong mindset to bolster his physical skills.
Fraser added: “I worked so hard during lockdown – not just physically but mentally, reading books on how to come back stronger.
"Coming to a place like this with 50-odd thousand fans, the city buzzing, I needed to get used to that and be ready for that – and that’s definitely something I’m ready for now.
“I’m the type of player I will do as I’m told. I don’t moan. I’m quite versatile. I played right back for Bournemouth against Peter Crouch a couple of times, which is brutal!
“I’ll listen about right back, right wing back, number ten. I played centre mid some times and I played centre mid against Liverpool last season.
“I learn every position. Wherever he wants me to play I will give 110 per cent and I don’t want just to do a job. I want to learn and I want to excel.”
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