O'Neill will partner Fletcher and Graham

The Northern Echo: O'Neill will partner Fletcher and Graham O'Neill will partner Fletcher and Graham

MARTIN O'NEILL reveals he has no qualms over playing Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham together and the Sunderland manager is likely to use the next two weeks to work on their partnership.

The Black Cats are without a fixture this weekend as the FA Cup returns for round five and the squad now has a two week break until their next league match at West Brom on February 23.

O'Neill has taken the squad to Dubai for some warm weather training this week, where the Black Cats boss is likely to spend some time with his strike-force, and working with Fletcher and Graham will be high on his list.

Graham finally sealed his £5.5m transfer from Swansea City on transfer deadline day, but the Gateshead-born front man is yet to make his first start for the Wearsiders.

Supporters are eager to see the 25-year-old partnered with Fletcher, who already has ten goals to his name this season, but so far O'Neill has stuck with the system he has favoured this season with Fletcher operating as a lone striker supported by the likes of Adam Johnson, Stephane Sessegnon and Seb Larsson.

In the wake of Saturday's home defeat to Arsenal, O'Neill revealed he will work on formations that accommodate both his main strikers and insists he is open to change if it will benefit the team.

"We've got a good chance this week - there's been very little chance so far with Steven Fletcher away with Scotland last week - to get them together and start working with them," the Black Cats boss revealed.

"I was obviously delighted when Danny got a great reception. I think he's particularly pleased. He just wants to put the whole thing to the side and be a professional player, do well for us. I think he will.

"He will sneak us a goal or two when it's never been on or we haven't deserved it.

"We changed the side around on Saturday if you want to say to accommodate people. I don't think we got one specific system, I hope not anyway and in time my own view is that I think the two players (Fletcher and Graham) if that's what you're talking about, can play together.

"It's just a matter of time and I don't see that being a massive problem. We'll see, it'll take a little bit of time."

While Fletcher and Graham were trying to equalise for the Black Cats on Saturday, another Sunderland striker was making his first appearance for another club.

Connor Wickham joined Sheffield Wednesday at the end of last week after O'Neill finally sanctioned a temporary move away from the Stadium of Light.

The teenager has endured a frustrating 18 months on Wearside and has failed to make an impact in the first team, but now he has an opportunity to rediscover his goalscoring touch at the Championship club.

At the tender age of just 18, Wickham arrived on Wearside in a deal worth £8.1m, a fee many believe has been a burden on the striker's shoulders.

However, the former Ipswich Town front man insists that isn't the case and hopes he can get some much-needed game time during his loan spell.

"No, not at all. It's not my decision, it's not my fault that I went for that amount of money. It's what the clubs agreed," Wickham told the Yorkshire Post after making his Owls debut against Derby County on Saturday.

"I found out about the move Friday morning, drove down Friday night and was eager to get playing. I met the boys Saturday morning and settled right in.

"I think this will be a big step in my career and, hopefully, something I can learn from.

"Initially it's for 28 days but it's extendable if both clubs agree so, hopefully, I will be here for a good period.

"Martin O'Neill was happy for me to come here, get games and experience, and not getting games at Sunderland was a big part in coming to Sheffield Wednesday.

"I just want games, a few goals would help to get the team up the table and just gain experience from being here.

"I spoke to the manager (Jones) and he told me everything I needed to hear and that was it, my mind was made up. It's a massive club.

"There's a good manager, a good team ethic and they are going forward. Hopefully, I can be part of the team going forward.

"It's a massive club and there's a lot of expectation, which, hopefully, I can live up to. I am confident I can. I want games. I needed first-team football."

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