Dan Williams: Danny Graham? Yes Please!
My Twitter feed went a little mad for a few days last week when news broke that Sunderland were considering lining up a move for Swansea frontman Danny Graham.
It's been no secret that, Steven Fletcher aside, Sunderland have struggled to find a consistent centre forward. Since Darren Bent's departure from the North East, we've suffered through Asamoah Gyan and his desire to play for cash rather than pride, Nicklas Bendtner and his insistence on not paying for pizza, Louis Saha and, well, I'm not sure what he was here for and Fraizer Campbell, a pacey winger at best.
Yes, Danny Graham is a Newcastle fan, and yes he once said he'd rather support anyone rather than Sunderland - we've ALL seen that bloody interview now - but this is football, and he's a professional. If Danny Graham was to pull on a red and white shirt, I have no doubt that he would do anything and everything that he could to be a success. Michael Chopra may have had a moment of indecision against Newcastle in the derby, but everyone is quick to forget the importance of his goals for us. No-one was calling him a Mag when he scored an injury time winner against Tottenham, were they? 'But what about Lee Clark?' I hear you collectively shout. Yes, he made a mistake with the t-shirt, but it wasn't a pre-meditated attack on SAFC, it was a mistake, and one that he regretted instantly.
What we've also all seen are the tweets arguing that we have a statue of a Newcastle fan outside of our ground. Which was of course the same sentiment that Martin O'Neill passed on when quizzed on the matter. If Graham wants to come and play for Sunderland, and the gaffer wants him here, which he clearly does, then we'd be foolish not to snap him up.
Michu may have grabbed the headlines at the Liberty Stadium this season, but Graham hasn't become a bad player overnight. He has worked his way up through the leagues, and relied on dogged determination to make it to the top. His 14 goals last season should also not be sniffed at, make no mistake, Graham certainly knows where the goal is, something that has been overlooked this term thanks to the emergence of Mr Michu. He's also able to score all kinds of goals. In January last year I saw him score a 25-yard screamer against Barnsley, but he's also strong in the air and a hardworker. With Fletcher's fitness sometimes being a bit hit and miss, and Wickham also in that category, with Saha and Campbell now gone, a replacement recruit is required, and at £4m, in this football market, he's a bargain.
Sunderland fans need to prove to the footballing world that Steve Bruce was wrong when he claimed that he got the grief that he did because of his roots. Let's not prove that he was correct by writing Graham off and not giving him a chance before he even sets foot within the North East.
Danny Graham could prove to be a real hit at the Stadium of Light. Let's show him that he's welcome to take his chance.
David Boyle: No Thank You, I'm After Someone A Little Different
So Danny Graham eh? I'm struggling to ever remember there being such a hullabaloo surroundin a player before they have even signed for the club, or in fact a bid has been accepted. The Gateshead-born forward was always set to become a huge talking point when the media began to run reports of O'Neill's interest. Unfortunately however it has been his integrity as a professional footballer that has been called into question as a Newcastle United fan rather than his ability as a forward or one that would fit the Sunderland setup.
For the record I believe Graham would be a decent signing and has all the hallmarks of a Martin O'Neill style centre forward, however do we not already have two such players among the ranks in the shape of Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham? Should we not be looking for someone that could offer something a little different?
It is neither no secret nor surprise that Graham has found first team football hard to come by this season following the incredible form of Michu since his summer arrival. Such has been Graham's frustration that he has been forced to look elsewhere for first team football. This becomes somewhat of a sticking spot with regards to any potential move to Sunderland, is O'Neill in any position to offer Graham guaranteed first team football? Graham would no doubt relish a return back to his native North-East he will find it extremely hard to budge red-hot Steven Fletcher from his starting spot and would O'Neill look to shake up his system at this stage of the season to accommodate both Fletcher and Graham? Unlikely in my opinion.
There is then the development of Connor Wickham to bear in mind. Whilst training day-in-day-out with the hardworking Graham would no doubt be of benefit to our young forward, his arrival would also surely in turn limit Wickham's exposure to first team football, especially from the bench.
So if not Graham then who else? Gary Hooper is a name that is being thrown around like confetti this transfer window with Norwich reportedly having had a £5m bid rejected by Celtic. Hooper's stock is certainly on the rise of late and with good reason given his fantastic goal scoring record having just notched his 19th goal of the season at the weekend. Understandably Neil Lennon is adamant that the Scottish side do not nor do they need to sell one of their prized assets, however he did mutter those magic words that every player has their price and a tussle for his signature is expected.
Whether or not Gary Hooper is a realistic target is irrelevant, he is the type of forward I believe we should be looking for rather than another "O'Neill style striker" in the shape of Danny Graham.
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