Danny Graham: What His Signing Means for Sunderland

Dan FitchFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Say what you like about Danny Graham, but there’s no denying that he’s got some guts.

When Graham came on as a substitute for Swansea against Sunderland in midweek, it was to the accompanying background noise of loud booing from the Sunderland fans.

They were making their feelings known about the prospect of Graham joining the club. If that doesn’t seem very friendly, then you must understand that Sunderland’s supporters do have a motive.

A born and bred Newcastle United supporter, Graham rather unwisely made some anti-Sunderland comments back in the days when he was playing for Watford.

This did not go down well at Sunderland, who have had issues in the past with Newcastle-supporting players, such as Lee Clark.

Nevertheless, Graham has today signed for Sunderland for a fee of £5m. The striker is clearly backing himself to win over the fans. 

So just what are Sunderland getting for their money, other than a Newcastle fan? It will sound like a criticism, but in essence what Sunderland are getting is a slightly-above-average Premier League striker.

That’s not a criticism. Teams need slightly-above-average strikers who understand their standing in the game and aren’t going to kick up a fuss if they’re left on the bench.

With Steven Fletcher having been in good form since his move from Wolves, Graham will no doubt be spending some time on the bench at Sunderland, just as he did at Swansea.

So why sign him? Because Sunderland lack experienced cover for Fletcher, making him a guaranteed starter in the team. Graham will provide both backup and competition for the Scot. Fletcher now knows that if he doesn’t deliver, then Graham will be waiting on the bench to take his place and potentially start ahead of him in the next game.

It also gives Martin O’Neill the opportunity to play a 4-4-2, with two out-and-out strikers. Time will tell how they will work together as a partnership, but both are intelligent players who should be able to complement each other.

Graham isn’t the most skillful player in the world, but Brendan Rodgers trusted him to spearhead his Swansea attack last season. Sometimes he stood out a little from his more nimble and talented colleagues, but he provided a more direct alternative to Swansea’s normal passing game and is a good finisher.


Michael Laudrup clearly doesn’t rate him that highly. Preferring to play Michu as as striker and even the Israeli Itay Shechter, despite the fact that the latter has so far failed to score for the club in 13 appearances.

Therefore, Graham shouldn’t be judged on this season’s achievements. Last season, when he played in 36 Premier League games, Graham scored 12 goals. 

A one-in-three scoring record isn’t brilliant, but it’s above average. That’s what Sunderland are getting and under Rodgers, Graham also proved that he is an above average when it comes to linking play with the attacking midfielders behind him.

Will it be enough to win over a set of fans that have already taken a dislike to him? In truth, it might not be. "Above average" players don’t tend to shake off such prejudices, which leaves Graham with the challenge of proving that he can perform at a higher level.