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Home Sport Football Irish League Ards

Footballers' Lives with Jonny Frazer: Too many players leave Linfield and disappear, I don't want that to happen to me

 

Ards ace Jonny Frazer on the most difficult period of his life, why he didn’t feel a part of Linfield’s celebrations last season and how he was embarrassed by Senderos.

Q. What is your earliest football memory?

A. I was at Greenisland, where the best player I played with was probably Craig Gardner, who was over at Swansea when Brendan Rodgers was there, but he had a horrible leg break and I think he plays for a local Amateur League team now.

Craig never came back from that, which is a shame. I played for 16th Newtownabbey Boys' Brigade at the Belvoir pitches and I was always football crazy. My dad Mark was a goalkeeper for Larne. My mum Jenny and dad always took me to training.

Q. Were your parents always supportive?

A. Yes, I sometimes had to go to Londonderry to train with the County team, or Enniskillen or Coleraine. My mum would have driven me around but I'm glad they weren't the kind of parents who shout at their kids on the sidelines.

They didn't get involved or try to influence me. I feel bad for kids whose parents confront managers about them. My mum and dad took me everywhere and always made sure I wouldn't be in a position to give up. I've an older brother, Simon, who played for Queen's but he suffered a broken leg.

I've a wee sister in law, Becky, who goes to the Burns Soccer School. In our first game of the season I put Ards 1-0 up against Cliftonville and my girlfriend Aimee said my dad lost it he was so happy.

Parents put in the time and money to buy the boots and training kit just so you can enjoy playing. I like it when they are there and I know my dad is raging if he has to miss a game.

Q. How is life with your girlfriend, Aimee Logan?

A. I live with my girlfriend in Monkstown. We moved into a new apartment in June and we have been together for four years. We met in Belfast on a night out. Aimee is from Ballymena and when I was at United it was handy for her family!

She is doing a sports course at university and is taking a year out on placement at Windsor Park, working with Cliftonville striker Stephen Garrett on the stadium tours. She is a big Liverpool fan like her side of the family and she's always very supportive and watches the games.

When I'm home and complaining about it she understands while telling me how terrible I've played! I value her honesty... Aimee plays hockey for Ulster Elks, normally on a Friday so she can watch me on Saturdays.

She knows how I react to football and I can be very hard on myself. If I've missed a few chances I'm annoyed about it. The bad mood would last for the weekend.

I don't do much in my spare time except walk my dog Oscar, he's my pride and joy. He loves the ball going back and forth during games!

Q. What has been the toughest day of your life?

A. In August 2015, my grandfather Brian passed away. I was very close to him and we had a routine of myself and dad having dinner with him after football on a Saturday. It was tough when that routine ended.

He saw my debut for Linfield, and I know he was very proud because he followed me from the beginning. It was a game against Glebe Rangers that would have meant little to most people but for my family it was special.

He used to go to a cafe at Abbots Cross called Eva's Cafe for a fry, and even now when I go there they ask about my football as my grandfather talked about me. He passed away in his sleep.

As he was the head of the family, everyone went to his house at Christmas, then suddenly that all changed.

The worst part for me at the funeral was seeing how upset my father was. I'd never seen him like that and it was tough. But I know my grandfather would be very proud to see me playing today.

Myself, my dad, brother and granda would have gone to every Northern Ireland game and he would have gone to France for the Euro 2016 finals. Sadly, he never experienced that.

Q. And what has been your most difficult time in football?

A. Last season. Linfield won the league and three trophies but I couldn't celebrate as I hadn't played enough games. I had earlier loan spells at Warrenpoint and Ballymena, but at Linfield I played about six games last season and it was frustrating training and not getting rewards.

When we won the Irish Cup I went onto the pitch afterwards but it was a terrible feeling as I didn't feel part of it. It felt even worse than consoling the boys after the Cup final defeat to Glenavon the previous year.

By the end of the season I was fed up. I understand it's hard for a young player to break into the Linfield team but it was very frustrating. When contracts were being discussed in May, I was so unhappy, I wanted to leave for a new challenge but it still felt awful to be rejected.

I was being told I wasn't good enough after five and a half years at Linfield. I was comfortable with the staff and had grown up with so many friends there. I know it's a decision that can make football sense but it still hurt.

Q. How is your mood at your current club, Ards?

A. All I want to do is play and establish myself as a player in this league. Too many players leave Linfield and disappear, I don't want that to happen to me. I've got a point to prove now.

My confidence was rock bottom and then you doubt yourself. Now I need to show I deserve to be here. There's a good group of lads at Ards and the manager Colin Nixon believes in me.

Q. Who has been a big influence on your career?

A. As well as my parents, former Linfield striker Peter Thompson helped me when I first broke into the Swifts side. Peter was there and that was a big thing for me to play with an Irish League great. His attitude and advice inspired me.

I've seen first-team boys dropping into the reserves and not taking it seriously and that annoyed me. I was thinking, 'Hold on, I'm busting my ass and your attitude isn't right' but Peter was a total professional. It opened my eyes to how you should approach the game.

Q. Who has been your toughest opponent and best player played with?

A. Best players on talent would probably be Kirk Millar or Ross Clarke. They aren't Irish League superstars but they can do magical things with a football. Other Linfield boys will say Stephen Fallon, who went to Swansea.

He is unbelievable, he has a football brain that puts him on another level.

Toughest opponent might be Philippe Senderos at Rangers, who gave me the runaround in Jamie Mulgrew's testimonial.

In one of the worst moments in my career, he Cruyff-turned me and I went on my backside. He's one of the worst players I have watched and he sent me to the shop!

Q. Is it hard to balance work and football commitments?

A. After I left Ballyclare High School I did an apprenticeship with BT, a software engineering degree at Staffordshire University. I went over one week every month, which meant I wasn't in training, so that made it harder to dedicate time to football.

Then when you're working from 8am and going straight to training afterwards, you sometimes don't get home until 9.30pm. There's a mental side to the game people might find more difficult to understand.

Players are working, and if they are getting it tough in work, it can affect training, unlike professional players whose sole focus is on the game. In my case, I was putting the training in and not playing, which made it even worse.

Q. What amusing sights have you witnessed in football?

A. Sean Ward, the former Linfield player now at Crusaders, makes me laugh. When we won the league he pulled out this high-pitched whistle and started blowing it in the changing room while dancing around. Everyone laughed but that whistle didn't leave his mouth for three days. We went into Benedicts in Belfast and he still had it in his mouth.

Back at Windsor he was on the tables knocking out ceiling lights, blowing this whistle. Every time you heard the whistle you knew Wardy was there doing a stupid dance.

One story about myself is when I made my debut for Ballymena against Coleraine. We got beat 2-0 and finished with nine men but, after 60 minutes, I was absolutely busting to go to the toilet.

I said to my manager Glenn Ferguson I need to go to the toilet urgently and had to go but the fourth official was saying I couldn't leave the pitch. I just ran in and went to the toilet and came back five minutes later... an unforgettable debut!

The boys gave me some stick. Another time at Warrenpoint we were drinking with the Newry boys after beating Bangor in a play-off to stay up and Barry Gray, who is now the Cliftonville manager, had to tuck me into my bed at the hotel. The lads enjoyed that too.

Q. Do you have any regrets?

A. I always had the work ethic and Linfield made me a better player so I've no regrets there.

Maybe I could have gone on loan last year somewhere but it was still great to witness that winning mentality. I feel I've lost a year of playing but I don't believe in regrets, you do the best you can.

Snapshot

Date of birth: May 30, 1996

Place of birth: Belfast

Previous clubs: Greenisland, Linfield, Warrenpoint and Ballymena (on loan)

Ards record: 16 appearances, six goals

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