Jeers turn to cheers for new boy Graham

MARTIN O'NEILL had no doubts over Sunderland's fans who gave new signing Danny Graham a rousing reception on his Black Cats debut.

Graham, a Newcastle United-supporting former Middlesbrough striker, was a £5m deadline day signing by O'Neill, but was booed as he played his final game for Swansea at the Stadium of Light last Tuesday.

But the atmosphere was different as Graham - who hinted to a fanzine that he would rather watch Gateshead than Sunderland if Newcastle did not exist - took to the pitch at Reading's Madejski Stadium on Saturday, with the 2,000 travelling supporters cheering the Gateshead-born 27-year-old as he made his entrance.

And O'Neill, who saw his team lose 2-1, said: "I wasn't worried. It's quite some time since Danny made those remarks to that fanzine. It's something that's not going to change.

"He was brought up a Newcastle supporter, there's nothing wrong with that. I don't want to find out two weeks from now that he was actually a closet Sunderland supporter. That's what he was.

"He wanted to come here, in a professional capacity, and he wants to do well. I'm delighted.

"I was impressed with him. He came on to a poor reception [for Swansea], that was to be expected, now he's with us and he wants to do well and I think in his interviews he has a bit of determination about himself, and time will tell. I think he'll improve our team.

"The travelling supporters - who have been fantastic - gave him a good reception and by the time he goes back to the Stadium of Light it will be fine.

"He'll score a goal or two for us, and that's what he wants to do, I think that what went on before will be put on hold. For the time he was on the field he did very well indeed."

Graham's introduction, with ten minutes left on the clock, almost paid dividends when he twice linked up with his former Boro teammate Adam Johnson, going closest to scoring when he headed Johnson's corner goalbound only to be denied by Royals' keeper Adam Federici.

And O'Neill has admitted that his presence alongside Steven Fletcher has given him much to think about ahead of the visit of Arsenal on Saturday.

When asked about looking at a 4-4-2 formation to accommodate the pair, O'Neill said: "We'll see, we'll develop something with them - I don't see it being a problem.

"I think that Steven Fletcher, although he's been brilliant as a centre-forward, I think he can drop in and easily play in another position. We'll see what develops with the two of them playing together."

Sunderland's personnel lends itself easily to playing a 4-4-2, with Johnson, James McClean and Seb Larsson providing natural width for the Black Cats. But O'Neill has asserted that formations are pointless if the players don't put themselves into attacking positions.

"We play with 11 players, we've got two wide players. If you want to get service from your wide players, then it would have to be Sessegnon getting into the area or a midfield player, which we have to work on anyway," said O'Neill.

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