Graham’s bright Sunderland debut cameo gives O’Neill cheer

Danny Graham.
Danny Graham.
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MARTIN O’Neill believes talk of Danny Graham’s Magpie roots is all but a dead issue after his Sunderland debut at the weekend, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.

And after watching the £5million new signing made such an instant impact following his 80th-minute introduction at Reading on Saturday, O’Neill also made it clear he will have no qualms fielding Steven Fletcher and Graham as a partnership, rather than just using the latter as a substitute for the former.

When Graham came on, he took up a position in the Reading goalmouth behind which 2,000 fans were stationed.

And they made a point of applauding the arrival of the Gateshead-born striker, after he was booed the previous midweek when he came on as a Swansea sub at the Stadium of Light.

O’Neill said: “I wasn’t worried about the reaction of fans to Danny and the warm reception he got was what I was expected.

“There’s no getting away from the fact he was a Newcastle supporter as a boy, but he has come here to Sunderland because he wants to come here.

“He’s come come here because he wants to prove a point about what he has to offer and the first signs from him were good.

“He has a determination about himself.

“Time will tell, but he wants to do well and I think he will do well and I think he will take confidence from that little cameo he had against Reading.

“He had a good response from our away fans and I think he will get a good response when he goes back to the Stadium of Light, too.

“Once he gets a goal or two, everything will be fine.”

As for the question of whether Graham and Fletcher are too similar to play together, that question seemed to be answered very quickly in the space of a few minutes when the two forwards threatened to wreak havoc in the Reading area.

“Steven Fletcher, I think, could easily play with Danny up front,” agreed O’Neill. “I don’t think it will be a major problem those two playing together.

“They’ll need service from wide positions of course, but I think our wide-men will look forward to the chance of supplying them.”

Sunderland host Arsenal this Saturday before having a blank weekend when the FA Cup fifth round is played on February 16/17.