RYAN Fraser believes he "would've helped massively" in Cherries' fight against relegation had he signed a new short-term contract last season, but added: "I need to look after myself."

The 26-year-old midfielder found himself in the firing line on the return from lockdown when, with his existing deal about to expire and Newcastle United waiting in the wings, he declined a contract extension.

Speaking as he was unveiled by the Tyneside club on Wednesday after signing a five-year contract as a free agent, Fraser said: “Obviously I made the decision not to play and got battered for it.

“Everyone has got their opinions but, 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 wanted me, it was just a decision I had to make.

“I want to start this new project, and I just want to show everybody what I’m about and start making new history.”

Cherries’ five-year stay in the Premier League came to an end on the final day of an extended campaign despite a 3-1 win at Everton and Fraser, who revealed he has since met with former boss Eddie Howe and spoken with his replacement Jason Tindall since and there are no hard feelings on either side, insists he was devastated.

He said: "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.

"But at the same time, 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."

Fraser continued: "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 them (the club) – it’s obviously the fans, who wanted me to play.

"I’ve made a decision now and 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."

Speaking to Chronicle Live, Fraser added: "The whole situation that ended at Bournemouth wasn't nice.

"I never wanted it to end like that after what we went through from start to finish.

"Everybody has their opinions, I respect them, good or bad.

"It was something where I was no longer under contract so I didn't feel like if I played and I'd got an injury...

"I wanted to help the team and I didn't want them to go down.

"I felt if I played - without sounding big-headed or big-time - because I'm very honest, I hope people think that, I'd like to think I'd have kept them up. That hurts even more.

"But I wasn't under contract so I didn't actually do anything wrong.

"I can see why people think that (otherwise).

"The fans were disappointed and I get that and respect it. I hope they come back up and I wish them all the best.

"I need to put all that to one side now. I don't regret my decision, just how it ended."