MARTIN O’Neill will consider a new role for Steven Fletcher after Danny Graham’s arrival.
The £5m signing of Gateshead-born Graham, completed on Thursday, means for the first time O’Neill has two proven goalscorers at the club. Graham did not come on until the 80th minute of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Reading, but the Black Cats had their three best chances in that time.
Little wonder, then, that O’Neill now sees 4-4-2 as a genuine tactical option.
“We’ll see, we’ll develop something with them – I don’t see it being a problem,” he said.
The trip to Berkshire was yet another frustrating one for Fletcher, often marooned from his team-mates and having to make the most of poor service. When Graham came on it was to play off the Scot, but the roles could be reversed.
“Steven Fletcher, although he’s been brilliant as a centre-forward, I think he can drop in and easily play in another position,” he said. “We’ll see what develops with the two of them playing together.”
Graham had a far-post header from Adam Johnson’s cross blocked, and from the resulting corner he forced an excellent save from Adam Federici. Perhaps as important as his contribution was the welcome he got from the away fans, who applauded him on to the field.
“I wasn’t worried,” O’Neill insisted. “It’s quite some time since Danny made those remarks to that fanzine (criticising Sunderland). It’s something that’s not going to change. He was brought up as a Newcastle supporter. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t want to find out two weeks from now that he was actually a closet Sunderland supporter. That’s what he was.
“He wanted to come here, in a professional capacity, and he wants to do well. I’m delighted. I was impressed with him.
“He’s with us and he wants to do well and I think in his interviews he has a bit of determination about himself, and time will tell. I think he’ll improve our team.
“The travelling supporters – who have been fantastic – gave him a good reception and by the time he goes back to the Stadium of Light, it will be fine. He’ll score a goal or two for us, and that’s what he wants to do, I think that what went on before will be put on hold.”