DANNY GRAHAM insists Sunderland were the only club for him in the January window, writes Chris Young.
Graham, expected to make his home debut in tomorrow’s visit of Arsenal, was a wanted man before clinching a £5million move to the Stadium of Light last week.
Swansea accepted bids from both Norwich City and Graham’s former club Middlesbrough during the window, with the latter making a dramatic bid to hijack Sunderland’s move on transfer deadline day.
But the Gateshead-born striker had his heart set on returning to the North East in the Premier League with Sunderland and, despite his patience being tested throughout January, finally saw the move go through.
Graham told the Echo: “Norwich and Boro were interested in me, but it was always the Sunderland move that I personally wanted to happen.
“The chance to return home to the North East was a massive attraction for me.
“I have been away for a long time, living and playing in Watford and in Swansea.
“So to come home and play for a big football club up here is great.
“Boro was an option, but no more than that.
“Of course, Middlesbrough was my first club and so there was still a pull there, but I really wanted to carry on playing in the Premier League.
“And once Sunderland came in for me and I had the chance to play in the Premier League at a club of this size, it was always going to be this club that I wanted to move to.”
Graham was jeered by a minority of Sunderland fans just two days before his move, when the Black Cats were held to a drab goalless draw by Swansea at the Stadium of Light.
Prior to the game, comments made by the boyhood Newcastle fan to a Magpies fanzine, while plying his trade at Watford, were unearthed where he claimed he would rather play for Gateshead than Sunderland.
Graham admits his regret over the remarks, but hopes supporters will see his commitment for the Black Cats.
“I wish I hadn’t said it at the time,” he said.
“It was said tongue-in-cheek – it was never meant to be what it has become.
“I’m not going to hide behind any excuses, though.
“I was booed at the Stadium of Light when I came here with Swansea, but I wasn’t a Sunderland player then.
“Hopefully now we can put things to bed and I can get on with showing how committed I am to the club.”
Graham certainly received a more favourable reaction from the travelling fans at Reading last week when he was roared onto the pitch after being introduced from the bench, and twice went desperately close to giving Martin O’Neill’s side the lead.
“The Sunderland fans gave me a great reception at Reading and I am very grateful for that,” he added.
“And it was almost the perfect start – I had a couple of headers, one that was blocked at the far post and another that I caught almost too well and the goalkeeper made a great reaction save.
“It was disappointing to lose but we have to move on now.
“We’ve got Arsenal tomorrow and hopefully I can put myself in contention for selection.”
Graham has netted twice against Arsenal in the last 13 months, firing the winner in a memorable 3-2 Swansea success in the Premier League last January and also notching an equaliser in last month’s 2-2 FA Cup third round draw at the Liberty Stadium.