I sacrificed Wembley for Sunderland – Graham

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DANNY Graham insists the chance to play first-team football overrode the prospect of lifting a major trophy at Wembley.

Graham snubbed the opportunity to grab a Capital One Cup winners’ medal – and potentially compete in the Europa League next season – when he swapped Swansea for Sunderland on transfer deadline day last week.

The 27-year-old, who netted 12 Premier League goals for the newly-promoted Swans last season, had largely found himself confined to the fringes at the Liberty Stadium this year under new boss Michael Laudrup.

The final straw for Graham came in last month’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Chelsea, when he was left out of the side despite netting three in his previous three games.

Graham scored Swansea’s second after being introduced from the bench at Stamford Bridge, but was then back among the substitutes at Everton three days later.

The former Middlesbrough man says he knew his time was up in South Wales and although he admits it will be tough to watch Swansea’s final clash with Bradford in 15 days’ time, Sunderland’s £5m signing believes he has made the right decision.

Graham said: “The lure of a major cup final was massive.

“But for me, it’s not about sitting on the bench and getting 10 or 20 minutes here and there or some games not even getting on. I want to play football, not sit on the bench.

“I was finding myself asking to play Under-21 games at Swansea because I wasn’t getting enough game-time.

“It was a difficult spell – especially when I got back in the team, scored three in three and then got dropped for the semi-final.

“I came on and scored in that one and then got dropped again for a winger up front.

“As soon as that happened, I knew my time was up at Swansea and I wanted to come here and play first-team football.

“That’s more important for me than going to a cup final.

“As much as the gaffer said I was part of his plans, that couldn’t have been the case if he was playing a winger up front after someone had scored four in four.

“I might have been sitting on the bench for the cup final, I might even have got on. But although it will be difficult watching it, you just have to get on with it.”

Graham has also moved to clarify reports that he asked to leave Swansea before joining the Black Cats.

The Gateshead-born frontman insists there was no formal transfer request, but he did express a desire to leave the Swans, if there was a chance of returning to his native North East.

“I sat down with the gaffer and expressed my desire to play football,” said Graham.

“I said if there was a club in the North East that wanted me – and I knew Sunderland were sniffing around, even though there was nothing concrete – then I wanted to be able to talk to them.

“Fair play to the chairman and the gaffer, as soon as Sunderland were in touch, he let me talk to them and there was no looking back.

“The lure of coming home was massive.

“I’ve been away for a long time, living alone in Swansea and Watford, and it can be hard at times.

“So to come home and to a big football club with a 40,000 stadium is massive.”