Sunderland boss O’Neill has key role in mind for Graham

GOAL-DEN GRAHAM ... Danny Graham.
GOAL-DEN GRAHAM ... Danny Graham.

MARTIN O’Neill reckons £5m new boy Danny Graham will guarantee goals if top scorer Steven Fletcher’s strikes dry up or the Scottish international gets injured.

Summer signing Fletcher scored the first five goals of Sunderland’s Premier League campaign, and it took until November 10 and an Adam Johnson strike for another team-mate to get on the scoresheet.

Fletcher now has 10 Premier League strikes, while Johnson has four and Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon three apiece.

But with neither Sessegnon, Fraizer Campbell, Louis Saha or Connor Wickham able to offer a genuine regular goal threat this season among his strikers, Graham’s arrival from Swansea City is a big boost to the strength of the squad.

“I think he’ll score a few goals for us,” said O’Neill. “That’s my hope, that’s my expectation, and I think he feels the same.

“There are times when I felt we’ve been over-reliant on Steven Fletcher for goals, and this will help alleviate the load on him.”

Gateshead-born Graham is thrilled to have got the move over the line, and says he wanted to come to the Stadium of Light as soon as heard of their interest.

Much has been made of his Tyneside roots, and whether Black Cats’ fans will accept him, but the striker insists that won’t be an issue.

He said: “As soon as I heard about the interest from Sunderland I didn’t even have to consider any of the other options that were on the table.

“I was born and brought up in the North East, so I know first hand the intense passion for football people have in this part of the world.

“Of course I totally understand that some fans might need convincing about my commitment to Sunderland because of my roots, but I’ve always given 100 per cent no matter what team I play for and who I play against.

“It’s up to me to show people I deserve to wear the Sunderland shirt, and I’m excited about playing for a club as big as this.

“It’s a new phase of my career, and I want to get started.”

Whether that means being used up front alongside Fletcher, or being used as a like-for-like replacement for the leading goalscorer remains to be seen.

But O’Neill admires what Graham – Swansea’s leading goalscorer last season – can bring to the side.

He said: “I think that he works hard for the team. He’s done well for Swansea. He had a good season last season, and I genuinely think he’ll do well for us.

“I’ve got a decent idea how we might use him.

“Our system is not too dissimilar from Swansea’s – a system which seems to suit him.

“But I think we would look at a number of formations, and I think he’s someone who would have no problem fitting in.

“The great thing is that he’s able to find the back of the net, and it’s pleasing to have a player like him in.”