Eddie Howe believes Ryan Fraser can close out the season in his best match-winning form to spur Bournemouth’s Premier League survival fight.
Fraser is out of contract in the summer and likely to end his seven-year stint on the south coast, and the 25-year-old recently admitted his long-term future had affected his short-term focus.
The Scotland forward starred in Bournemouth’s crucial 2-1 win over Aston Villa though, leaving manager Howe tipping him to finish the campaign – and most probably his Cherries career – in style.
“If he plays like he did against Aston Villa – and Brighton because I think he committed to both games like that – I think we have a potential match-winner in the team,” said Howe.
“He’s a very important player for us and I’ve been very, very pleased with him of late.”
Howe admitted he was relaxed with Fraser’s candour over his future damaging his form, but still believes players must temper their unfiltered comments.
Asked if he wants his players to be so direct in publicly appraising their own situations, Howe said: “That’s totally down to the individual. As long as they say nothing that harms the team.
“If they’re speaking about themselves and their own situations they have the right to be as honest as they want to be. As long as they’re not damaging the team or club I have no issue with it.”
Bournemouth have boosted their top-flight survival battle with consecutive wins, over Brighton and Villa, and now face a stern test at in-form Sheffield United on Sunday.
Howe admitted warning his players that any relief at their two wins must be dispatched as the Cherries still face a relegation slugfest for the remainder of the campaign.
”That’s one of the problems we’ve faced in our Premier League life – not being consistent,” said Howe.
”We’ve had one or two wins and then done what you said. The emotional feeling that those games have, we’ve not been able to sustain that for a long period of time.
“That’s one of the challenges we face in this game – to make sure that we are still fighting and scrapping for our lives.
“Nothing’s changed, we’ve just got ourselves out of the media spotlight in terms of the relegation zone but we’re still very much in a relegation battle and we need to be aware of that going into the match.
“Back-to-back wins have moved us and more back-to-back wins can move us again. Suddenly the outlook can be very different. We’re in charge of that.
“The next game is the only important one – we have to go in with the same mentality as Brighton and Aston Villa. No different.
“Be absolutely hungry for every ball and commit ourselves to everything we do and hopefully, with our quality everything else will take care of itself.”
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