O'Neill: Graham's Newcastle affiliation doesn't matter

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

HAVING made a bid to bring Danny Graham to Sunderland, Martin O'Neill insists the fact the Swansea City striker grew up supporting rivals Newcastle United is irrelevant if his transfer to Wearside goes ahead.

O'Neill launched a £4m bid for the Swansea front man on Thursday, but hours later that offer was bettered by Norwich City's £5m bid.

The Black Cats will now decide whether to up their initial offer and that could hinge on Fraizer Campbell's proposed move to Championship leaders Cardiff City.

Blues' boss Malky Mackay revealed the club had made an approach for the England international, but O'Neill has blocked the move at least for the time being.

The Black Cats boss is keen to bolster his attacking options and stop the side relying on Steven Fletcher for goals and he has identified Graham as his top target.

Though much has been made of the Gateshead-born striker's affection for North-East rivals Newcastle, O'Neill - who declined to comment on his interest in the player - believes a self-confessed Newcastle supporter can be a success on Wearside, and he has a point.

Northumbeland-born Bob Stokoe, who led then second division Sunderland to their 1973 FA Cup victory over Leeds, was part of the famous Magpies team of the 1950s before crossing the divide.

A statue of the former Sunderland manager was erected outside the Stadium of Light and O'Neill insists that is proof players and managers put their childhood allegiances behind them when moving to a different club.

"You can grow up supporting a team, that's the nature of it. But when you become a professional player that is your job, to play the best for your team," O'Neill said.

"There is a statue outside the ground here to a Geordie. It can't be bad.

"If you can do something for the football club I think the fans are willing to forgive and forget."

Swans boss Michael Laudrup yesterday confirmed the club had received bids for the players, but although he refused to name them.

He said: "Everywhere it is saying there have been some official bids, it is true, but apart from that I don't really have any comment as in the next four days we have two very important games.

"Tomorrow is a very important home game against Stoke in the league as after that we have two difficult away games against Sunderland and West Ham, and we all know about the game on Wednesday (against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup), so that is much more important.

"So my only comment is we have had some bids and I don't want to go into detail about what clubs they are."

Despite the arrival of Alfred N'Diaye and Kader Mangane last week, O'Neill is still looking to improve his squad this month. In the past, Sunderland managers have opted to invest in young players as opposed to finished articles, but O'Neill doesn't see a problem with that.

"I always think there's room for both (potential and proven players). It very much depends on your position.

"I think it's obviously important to stay in the league. I think you just have to be mindful of the situation.

"My view is that eventually if you're good enough you'll come regardless of what your age is. I don't think age should be a barrier."

As well as players coming through the doors at the Stadium of Light, there could still be more players heading in the opposite direction.

David Meyler has already completed a permanent move to Hull City, while Ji Dong-Won has joined FC Augsberg on loan until the end of the season.

Although O'Neill has stopped Campbell travelling to Wales to discuss a move to Cardiff, it is still possible the striker will leave during the January window.

Louis Saha is also set to leave after a disappointing six-month spell on Wearside and the club has reached an agreement with the former Everton man that he will be freed from his contract should be find another club.

"At the time he came to the club I never for one minute thought he would be the answer," O'Neill revealed. "He is 34, played for Everton and Tottenham in his final year. He was sitting without an offer in the south of France I thought he would come in, play some games and in many aspects show younger lads how to play centre forward.

"He is a bit disappointed he has not done that brilliantly, It is not any major surprise to me for the most part because he missed pre-season, which is very important even for experienced players.

"We came to mutual decision. He just feels playing at this level he is unable to do that here and he doesn't want to lose the sheen of his reputation."

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