Why Danny Graham has all the ingredients to be a Sunderland success the second time around
This was always going to be a signing that split opinion.
Danny Graham, whose much-heralded arrival in 2013 yielded just a single goal in an unproductive spell, is back on Wearside.
After training with Sunderland in recent weeks, the veteran striker has put pen to paper on a short-term contract at the Stadium of Light.
On paper, it’s a signing that makes a degree of sense.
Graham is a proven entity in League One and, with the club handing him an initial one-year deal, there is little financial risk involved.
He netted 17 times during the last season he played in League One and, encouragingly, was a real presence and helped to lay on chances for the likes of Bradley Dack and Dominic Samuel.
Phil Parkinson’s successful sides of the past have thrived off a player in the mould of Graham leading the line, so in that sense the signing is a positive one - and one that comes as little surprise.
If Graham can hit double figures this season, and bring Lynden Gooch, Chris Maguire et al into play, then his signing will have proved to be a success. Sunderland have been deprived of a regular goalscorer since the departure of Josh Maja and, while Graham will not be a long-term solution to that issue, he could plug the gap during the upcoming campaign.
That’s still a big ‘if’ but, if the Black Cats were looking for guaranteed goals in the third tier then they could have sought little more than Graham.
But it’s the short-term nature of the deal has many concerned, particularly at a time where the club are desperately in need of a longer-term vision.
Much of this summer’s recruitment has been with a view to the future. Aiden O’Brien and Bailey Wright are two players of a good age, who could go on to spend a large number of years at the Stadium of Light. Graham, at 35, won’t bring such longevity.
The key is balance. If Sunderland’s squad was entirely built upon signings like Graham, then there would be a real cause for concern.
But the odd signing of this mould, to compliment a squad otherwise built with a more long-term view in mind, is no bad thing.
It’s something non-executive director David Jones alluded to recently - the fact that some short-term ‘bargains’ could crop up and, while not necessarily in-line with the club’s recruitment vision, may prove astute additions.
Graham falls into that category.
This year, it’s all about putting together a squad that gets over the line. Given the new financial climate we find ourselves in - with salary caps and squad caps now in play - it has never been more crucial Sunderland get out of League One.
And if Graham can contribute to that, then his one-year return will have to be regarded as a success - even if one year is all it proves to be.