DANNY GRAHAM expects a rejuvenated Stadium of Light tomorrow after Sunderland’s derby heroics.
Sunderland supporters have not seen a victory on home turf since the 3-0 win over West Ham on January 12, but last weekend’s 3-0 success at Newcastle United has transformed the mood on Wearside.
The Black Cats can now boast a three-point cushion with the relegation zone and leapfrogged fellow strugglers Stoke and Aston Villa after a first victory on Tyneside since 2000.
And with new head coach Paolo Di Canio expected to be handed a hero’s welcome for his home bow tomorrow, striker Graham predicts a buoyant atmosphere against Champions League-chasing Everton.
“The derby win has given everyone a massive lift and we can look forward to tomorrow’s game now,” said Graham.
“The fans will have enjoyed their week at work because they have the bragging rights.
“It was a huge result, we all know that, but we have to remember it’s just one step towards our goal which is to make sure we stay in the Premier League.
“I’m sure there will be an extra few thousand people there tomorrow to see the gaffer’s first home game – and especially after the result last weekend.
“The fans have been superb, even when things haven’t been going well, and we will need them to stay right behind us in the run-in.
“We’re going to need them for the home games coming up and they can play a massive part in helping us stay in the Premier League.”
Having ended their hoodoo against Newcastle, Sunderland face another of their bogey teams tomorrow, as they attempt to inflict a first defeat on David Moyes during the Everton manager’s 11-year reign.
The Toffees lie four points adrift of the top four after Tuesday’s punishing stalemate at the Emirates, although Graham does not agree that fatigue will be a factor for Moyes’ men tomorrow.
“I don’t think that makes a lot of difference,” said the £5million striker.
“You look at all the big teams at the highest level and they play Saturday-Tuesday, so I don’t think it will be a factor. We just need to worry about ourselves.
“Everton are a very good team. David Moyes has assembled a very good squad over the years and it’s going to be a tough game – we know that.
“All the stats leading up to the game don’t bother us as players. We want to go out there focused and ready.
“We’ll go into it with a lot of confidence and hopefully we will get another three points and move on to the games after that.”
Meanwhile, Graham, who was restricted to an unused substitute’s role for Di Canio’s first game in charge at Chelsea due to a knee injury, insists he is fully fit for tomorrow’s game after he was limping towards the end of the first half at St James’s.
The 27-year-old added: “I took a knock in the derby, just a kick on the Achilles, and it started to tighten up but I managed to play on and it was nothing to worry about.
“I’m fine now.”