Graham can prove a point – and aid Sunderland

OVERCOMING HURDLES ... Sunderland's Danny Graham.
OVERCOMING HURDLES ... Sunderland's Danny Graham.

MARTIN O’Neill believes Danny Graham has a point to prove after finding himself confined to the fringes at Swansea City.

Sunderland’s January signing proved a huge hit in his first year as a Premier League regular last season after netting 12 top-flight goals for the newly-promoted Swans after his £3.5m move from Championship Watford.

But after Michael Laudrup replaced Brendan Rodgers at the Liberty Stadium helm in the summer, the Gateshead-born striker dropped down the pecking order, and just five of Graham’s final 14 appearances for Swansea came in the starting line-up. But Sunderland boss O’Neill believes the final episodes in Graham’s Swansea career have given the former Middlesbrough striker a determination to prove himself once more after joining the Black Cats for £5m on transfer deadline day.

“Last season, he had a terrific year and scored a lot of goals,” said O’Neill.

“There was a change of management and Michu has come to great prominence and Danny had to take a back seat.

“He never really regained his place over the last few months.

“I always feel about Danny that there’s a hurdle in front of him that he wants to overcome.

“If he doesn’t do that, then he feels that he’s not been successful. In that sense, it’s pretty good for us.”

Graham’s desire to return to his native North East was also a key factor behind his decision to leave Swansea – but that is a factor which O’Neill remains cautious about.

The Sunderland chief added: “I think there might have been a bout of home sickness as well, getting back to the North East where he’s got a lot of family and friends.

“But that’s never always the best reason to be coming back, let me tell you.”