A striker who first cut his teeth in the Northern League is on the verge of a £4m move back to the North East. Neil Cameron looks at Danny Graham’s career
BUYING a decent player at a fair price in January is a tricky business. But it’s not as difficult as finding someone with a bad thing to say about Sunderland’s next would-be hero who is set to arrive on Wearside in the near future.
If Danny Graham’s proposed move to Sunderland from Swansea is completed this month, as expected, then the club will be buying a model professional, according to those how know him best.
Having started his senior career with Middlesbrough, the Gateshead-born striker had two years with Carlisle and also a loan spell at Darlington.
Given his strong connections to the area, it is perhaps fitting that his peak years look like being spent in the region if a deal can be agreed with Swansea.
“A good lad.” That was the favoured description offered about the 27-year-old by all who have come across him in football, right from the very beginning of his career.
And he’s a good player as well, a striker with a career record of a goal in every three games and who in recent matches for Swansea has sent out a timely reminder of his capabilities as a Premier League-class centre-forward.
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is ready to spend over £4million of Ellis Short’s money to lure Graham back up north, with QPR, Aston Villa and Reading said to be also monitoring the situation.
O’Neill will have scouted and researched Graham as a player, but if he ever needed a character reference then all he’d need to do would be pick up the phone and speak to anyone at Middlesbrough.
He would receive nothing but glowing reports.
Dave Parnaby, the head of Middlesbrough’s Youth Academy, was involved when they signed the skinny 17-year-old from Chester-le-Street juniors.
The club saw immediately that they had a natural goalscorer on their hands with a work ethic that was unmatched. A bright future was predicted.
Parnaby said: “Danny had this knack of being in the right place at the right time inside the 18-year-box. It’s not a bad knack to have.
“He made his debut at Old Trafford of all places and was progressing really well, but his misfortune was that this was the era of Mark Viduka, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gaizka Mendieta and they were a hard trio to break into.
“Danny found this difficult because he wasn’t the type content with not playing,” said Parnaby.
“I’m not party to what Danny and Gareth Southgate, who was manager at the time, spoke about, but I gather Danny wanted to play first-team football and that wasn’t going to happen here, so he made the decision to move on. He left with all our best wishes. He has a lot of fans at our club. Our head of recruitment, Ron Bone, never stops praising Danny to this day and that’s on a weekly basis.”
That was in 2007. He had already been loaned out to Darlington, Leeds United, Derby County and Blackpool before he began a two-year spell with Carlisle, which brought him some publicity and 33 goals over two seasons.