Scott Fraser has been on the losing side in his last two meetings with Charlton Athletic – but it was his performance in the match before that which ensured he got special attention.
The Addicks’ long-term admiration and pursuit of the 26-year-old Scot finally came to fruition this week when he became their fourth and final capture of the January transfer window.
Fraser first caught the eye with a classy display in SE7 in December 2020, capping it off with Milton Keynes’ winning goal.
But he struggled to get a kick in the rematch in late January 2021 as Darren Pratley’s sole assignment was to man mark him in Buckinghamshire.
“Lee Bowyer [then Charlton boss] told me that he’d never had to do that for a League One player before,” Fraser, who has been one of the outstanding creative midfielders in England’s third tier for a sustained period, told the South London Press. “Steve Gallen [director of recruiting] told Lee Bowyer that he was signing me and he couldn’t believe they had finally got me.
“It got quite close a couple of seasons ago when Charlton were in the Championship. They had the problem with the previous owners at the time.
“I was at home watching Charlton against Leeds at Elland Road. If they had stayed in the Championship then I’m 90 per cent sure I’d have become a Charlton player back then.
“We got there eventually.”
The prospect of Fraser pulling on the club’s red-and-white shirt looked dead when he became big-spending Ipswich’s eighth arrival of the summer transfer window in July.
But the last of 14 League One starts for the Tractor Boys came in the 2-0 loss at Charlton on December 7.
Fraser did not even make the bench for their last five fixtures.
“Never at any point was I thinking I was going to go there and be played out on the left wing,” said Fraser, who had scored 14 goals in 44 appearances for MK.
“With the numbers I’d achieved over the last few seasons I’d done that playing centrally – whether that was as a number eight or a left-sided number 10. I never achieved them by playing out wide. It’s similar to asking a winger to play as a number 10 – the skill-set is not the same in any way.
“I never really got the chance. The chats I had before were that I was going to a big club and you’re going to be the one that is going to help us, very much, get to the Championship. It never worked out like that. That’s football sometimes.”
Fraser, who started on his local club Dundee United’s books, harbours a strong desire to play for his country.
Charlton’s only Scottish international is John Hewie, who played for the South Londoners between 1949 and 1966.
“That again was one of the biggest frustrations of the Ipswich situation,” said Fraser. “I was told the season before that I was close and they [Scotland] were more aware of me than ever which, for a player in League One, speaks volumes. They told me I had to be playing at a higher standard on a regular basis in front of big crowds.
“I had that opportunity, in my head, at Ipswich. Now I’ve got the chance again at Charlton to play for a massive club in front of great fans – really kicking on, in terms of me and the club going up to the Championship, has got to be the aim to help all of us.
“Once a manager and whole club show that much faith to go and pay the money – and give me a long contract – it shows how much they wanted me.”
Fraser turned down Championship sides when he signed for Milton Keynes in July 2020.
He had nine goals and 14 assists for Burton Albion but did not really feature after the start of January that year after refusing to sign a contract extension.
“It [joining MK] was the biggest gamble but it was the biggest reward as well,” said Fraser.
“It was probably the most Championship interest that I’d had but, again, it was lower end teams. Two of the Championship teams got relegated that following season when I was at MK. When the MK situation came up, they had struggled the season before but had a good end to it.
“I was going from nine goals and 14 assists – and that was only up until January, because I wasn’t signing a new contract at Burton I kind of stopped playing there. After that it was about seeing where I was going to progress again and make sure it wasn’t just a one season thing.
“When the MK call came I met Russ [Russell Martin] and his assistant Luke Williams and I trusted everything they said straight away.
“In my head it was better for me to go to a team that suited how I want to play football to help me get better again.
“The gamble sense of it was to go to a team who had been in the bottom end of League One instead of two or four Championship moves. That was my thinking – if I go to the Champ I want them to be established and not one that goes up or down or fighting relegation.
“People from the outside, including my family, were going: ‘Why are you doing that?’ But I trust my judgement. I feel I’m quite switched on, in that sense.
“I believe that money will come. If I go to the right team then I flourish – and I did that there.”
Fraser targets double figures for both goals and assists. Hitting even one of those would be good news for his new employers.
He responds “100 per cent” when asked if the fact Charlton manager Johnnie Jackson plays a three-man central midfield will suit him.
Fraser said: “Even from watching the game on Monday [a 2-1 win at Portsmouth] I was seeing positions I could get into.
“I was thinking ‘I wish the deal had got done earlier so I could get on the pitch’. It was a game I would’ve loved. We got a fantastic result. I’m sure when I get in the team I’ll enjoy it.
“I’ve got a Twitter account but I don’t really use it. Tracey [Leaburn], our player liaison, was telling me she can’t quite remember a reception like I got on social media. I thank the fans for that. To make my debut in front of them on Saturday is something I’m really looking forward to. Hopefully we can nick a result.
“This should be a Championship club. They had a slow start to the season but since the gaffer came in they have really picked up. We need to get some positive momentum which we can finish of this season and also take into the next one.”
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