DANNY GRAHAM is still expected to sign for Sunderland before tomorrow night’s transfer deadline despite being subjected to a barrage of abuse at the Stadium of Light last night.
After the Swansea City striker was introduced as a late substitute during the tame goalless draw on Wearside, at the final whistle he walked over to a young Black Cats fan and handed over his shirt.
Before that he had to deal with a number of derogatory chants including ‘you’ll always be scum’ from the fans who he could be playing in front of when Sunderland head for Reading on Saturday.
Graham’s Geordie roots, he was born in Gateshead and raised a Newcastle United fan, have led to many Sunderland supporters criticising his possible arrival from the Swans.
But Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill said: “I think he is himself reportedly a Newcastle fan. I think the reaction as we stand at this moment was quite a natural reaction.
Bob Stokoe (a Geordie FA Cup winning former Sunderland manager) ... was looking down at him. Things can get better.”
Sunderland are believed to have increased their initial £4m offer to £5.5m for the former Middlesbrough striker, who was used as a second-half substitute by Swansea boss Michael Laudrup.
Laudrup said: “One of the teams (to have lodged a bid for the striker) is Sunderland and that’s why I took the decision not to start him but he’s a great professional. I don’t know what’s going to happen, we will see in the next few days.”
Sunderland failed to have a single shot on target last night and struggled to cope with Swansea’s possessionstyle football – with the men from South Wales recording 12 shots to the hosts’ two.
It provided a reminder to O’Neill that something is required on the transfer front, with tomorrow’s 11pm deadline approaching.
“I’m hopeful we might be able to do something. Until it is signed and sealed there is no reason to be optimistic,” he said.
“We have scored some goals in the last few weeks, but I think we have an over-reliance on Steven Fletcher. He played great again but we need to do better than we did tonight overall.
“If we don’t get someone in, and we have made bids for a couple of players. We are not the only team in that position with January 31 approaching.” “I don’t think we’d have won that game without the signing of Sissoko, I really don’t. That’s how important that signing was.”
The jubilant reaction of Newcastle’s players at the final whistle underlined the importance of the result, both in terms of improving the club’s position in the bottom half of the table and fostering a renewed team spirit.
Every Magpies player celebrated in front of the travelling fans, a number of whom were wearing French-style dress.
Some observers have claimed this week’s events will create divisions within the Newcastle squad, but last night’s events suggest the group is in a much better shape than it was a couple of weeks ago before four of the five new faces arrived.
“We worked really hard this week on integrating the players,” said Pardew.
“They’re not here to save us, but they are here to help us and that was the message to our established players.
“We had a nice night (on Monday) in the hotel. We had a nice meeting and you kind of sensed there was a good feeling amongst them all.
“We had a bit of a laugh with the French translations.
It’s been a terrific couple of days.”
The mood was certainly triumphant at half-time, but after Christian Benteke halved Villa’s arrears from the penalty spot at the start of the second half, Newcastle were forced to dig deep to maintain their advantage.
With Krul and Steven Taylor at the fore, they repelled a series of Villa attacks, and while much of the post-match attention was focused on Newcastle’s new boys, Pardew was quick to praise Taylor as he made his first start for more than two months.
“We’ve paid 8m Euros for Mapou (Yanga-Mbiwa), but Steven got the nod over him so that’s how highly I rate him,”
he said. “The trick with Steven is that he needs to stay away from injuries and protect himself.
“He needs to learn now.
When he got injured last time, he was running up for freekicks, sprinting here and there and wanting to do this and that. He needs to learn that he needs to manage himself in a game.
“He’s got a genuine enthusiasm, but sometimes that’s to his detriment. He needs to learn. He’s at an age now where he needs to push on.
“Potentially, I’ve always thought he could be an England centre-half because he can pass, he can jump and he’s quick enough.
“He’s certainly got confidence to play at that level, but injuries have always knocked him when he’s playing well.”
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