RR: So then... Danny Graham. Do you think that he’s a good signing for Sunderland in League One?
RC: I’d say he’s a top signing and he is a step in the right direction for Sunderland in their bid to get back into the second tier.
Danny Graham brings you a wealth of experience, plus his influence both on and off the pitch is not to be underestimated at all. He helped our young players progress, as a few of them have mentioned in interviews, and his CV shows he knows what he is doing.
On the pitch, he leads the team in a number of ways. His presence is felt by the entire team, and it always helps other players when they know they have someone up front who knows what they’re doing.
Danny scored some vital goals in our League One promotion winning season, and without him over the last four years or so, I really do wonder where we would be - I imagine in a similar situation to Sunderland.
RR: Many fans feel sceptical about this signing after his first stint here. What would you say to those fans?
Everyone has seen Sunderland’s decline and that they’ve had players who didn’t care about the club they were playing for, and I can guarantee DG is the complete opposite of that. We was in a similar position, but when you know you have players like Danny Graham who truly care about the shirt they are wearing, it makes a massive difference.
He’ll always make time for the fans, he’ll give his all and he’ll be a much welcomed addition to Sunderland. Treat him well!
RR: How would you summarise Graham’s time with Rovers?
RC: One word, successful.
He arrived in January 2016, and I don’t think too many fans were that happy at the time, but he’s proved us all wrong.
He signed permanently the following summer, and although we couldn’t escape relegation - due to frailties at the other end of the pitch - he still got double figures. He stayed with us for our League One season despite interest elsewhere, and despite a slow start, he scored 18 goals (all competitions) and was a vital part of the squad.
The 2019-20 season was his last as a consistent starter for the club, where he scored 16 goals, and his partnership with Bradley Dack was key to our 15th place finish in our first season back in the Championship.
Last season saw his influence fade, starting just 14 times, but he got a couple of goals and the fact he still had an influence despite limited game time shows he still has something left in the tank.
To summarise, his time at the club has been successful. He’s helped us create memories that we’ll always look back on with fondness, and will always be welcome back at Ewood Park.
RR: Have Rovers successfully replaced him, and would you have given him another contract or was the time right to leave?
RC: I wouldn’t say we’ve replaced him, because we’ve not got someone who can hold the ball up like he can, but we are trying to move away from that style of play so a replacement isn’t necessarily what we need now.
Personally, I think it was the right time to leave for both parties involved. With all respect, he’d have been on a relatively high wage here, and with his game time limited, the money was needed elsewhere with the current pandemic.
Plus, it wasn’t fair on Danny to be sat on the bench. He’s coming to the end of his career, and he needed to be playing as much as possible and getting some more goals before he retires.
It worked well for all parties. He left on good terms, he’s got a move where he’ll get game time, I just wish we could have given him the send off he deserves.
RR: What did Blackburn do to get the best out of him?
RC: We played in more of a route one style kind of play, and that suited Danny Graham to a tee. Using him as a hold-up player, his influence up top was vital as it brought other players into the match and helped us score goals. Danny’s game was about much more than just goals.
His partnership with Bradley Dack - who played in the number 10 role - was one of the main factors why we gained promotion to the Championship, and that saw the best of Danny Graham.
RR: What formation/system do you think best suits Graham at this stage of his career?
RC: We played a 4-2-3-1 in League One and the season following, and it suited Danny Graham massively. This allowed him to play with his back to goal and the three options behind him gave him several players to play off to, and then make his way into the box.
He played in a front two in our relegation season, and formed a good partnership with young Sam Gallagher, so I guess he could also play alongside another forward, but I think he suits leading the line alone rather than with a partner.
Give the ball to him and have players to play off him and you’ll see the best of Danny Graham, that’s for sure.
All the best for the season, and all the best to Danny Graham!