In a story published on Thursday morning, Chris Waugh of The Athletic ($) covered the latest drama around Newcastle involving Eddie Howe and long-time friend and forward Ryan Fraser, who recently got sent to train with the U21 squad by his coach.
There is a lot to unpack in the full text, so we’re doing the best we can here to cover all corners and give you a comprehensive picture of what happened, what’s going on, and where all of this is inevitably leading to: Fraser’s exit as soon as next summer.
Waugh cites “Newcastle United sources” informing him that “Fraser unexpectedly asked to leave” the club ahead of Howe’s first full season as coach. On the other hand, “sources close to the player” are quoted as “disputing that he asked for a transfer last summer.”
It is well known that Howe relied on trusted players he knew from his time at AFC Bournemouth during his first training sessions at Newcastle—namely: Ryan Fraser, Matt Ritchie, and Callum Wilson.
In the case of Fraser, he grew so close to Howe at Newcastle that “Fraser’s determination to impress Howe” seemingly “led to speculation about the winger’s dedication to international football.“ That, of course, is related to Fraser removing himself from Scotland’s senior squad upon Howe’s arrival, although he lasted returned to the international squad for future games.
Fraser “blamed a calf problem” as the main reason he skipped Scotland’s two WC qualifier games, but the forward could be seen training for Newcastle during that same international break and later played in Howe’s first match in charge, recently after that.
Last summer, ahead of the transfer window and already planning this year’s squad, Howe did so “believing Fraser would remain an important part of his first-team,” writes Waugh. That would mean, though, Fraser would need to adapt to playing a left-wing reserve role instead of his preferred right-wing deployment.
Sources close to the player “refute” the idea that Fraser was stubborn and only wanted to play right-wing, saying that “Fraser is happy to play in all positions” mainly because the veteran “simply wanted to be in the team and would accept a recall into any role.”
The same sources are quoted saying that the player“only asked to leave in January,” and “not during the summer.” On top of that, that was simply a verbally floated petition, as Fraser “did not submit an official transfer request” to Newcastle United. The sources close to Fraser say that he “merely indicated a preference to move on in search of greater game-time,” after getting denied playing time by Howe through the first part of the season.
According to the information obtained by Waugh, some “bottom-half Premier League clubs” showed interest in acquiring Fraser on loan, although the Magpies were only interested in “a permanent transfer, or to at least recoup a decent proportion of his wages.”
That, of course, blocked any potential exit, including the option of going to Everton in the deal that ultimately brought Anthony Gordon to Tyneside. According to Waugh, though, “Everton wanted an up-front, cash-only offer.”
After a recent press conference in which Howe announced the demotion of Ryan Fraser to the U21 squad for training purposes, his removal from Newcastle’s first-team squad has not been made official by the club as such at any point in time yet.
Believing “he had impressed in training,” Waugh reports that Fraser let Howe know about that after the home loss to Liverpool. Howe didn’t make any change to his ongoing punishment of Fraser, though, with the coach opting to “ostracise a member of his Premier League squad,” writes Waugh.
Training with the U21 squad means that Fraser is “not only training with the kids,” but also “working at a different location” as the club’s academy uses a separate site at Little Benton.
Waugh reasons that Howe most probably “made such a considerable call consulting some of his trusted confidantes,” making this whole saga and its fallout “consequential.”
According to Waugh, who covers Newcastle in-town for The Athletic on a daily basis, Howe “prioritizes the collective above all else and believes Newcastle’s rapid progress in 16 months has been built on the togetherness of the squad and those around the club.“ That would have led him to make the decision of removing Fraser from the first-team setup, as the gaffer thinks the player is not “committed to Newcastle” nor does he “benefit the group.”
Sources close to Fraser “reject any suggestions his application in training or standards have slipped.” They are also quoted as “insisting” on how Fraser “is working hard to win back his first-team place,” even if they acknowledge “Fraser is frustrated by his lack of football and did not believe he warranted being dropped from the squad last month.”
Fraser has appeared in eight Premier League games this season (313 minutes played), starting three of them. He has not featured in a match since last October 19th in the matchweek 12 game against Everton, when he played 18 minutes off the bench.
The last time Fraser appeared in a game with either Newcastle or Scotland was on Nov. 16, in a friendly between the Scottish and Turkish football federations ending in a 1-2 Scotland loss played at Diyarbakır Yeni Stadyumu right before the World Cup break.