CRAIG Gardner believes Danny Graham will easily be able to separate being a Newcastle United fan and a Sunderland player.
The Gateshead-born striker was a controversial £5m deadline-day signing from Swansea City. Graham had light-heartedly derided the Black Cats in a Watford fanzine interview during his spell at Vicarage Road. When he came on as a Swansea substitute at the Stadium of Light less than 48 hours before his move, a significant section of the crowd let him know they had neither forgotten nor forgiven it.
But Graham was cheered on to the field when he made his Sunderland debut at Reading on Saturday, and twice in a matter of seconds came close to winning the game at the end where the 2,171 away fans were massed.
“Whatever’s happened in the past, happened in the past,” argued new team-mate Gardner (pictured left), who scored his second penalty in three matches at the Madejski Stadium. “In football you never know what’s around the corner. Danny’s come in, he’s a true professional and a class player. He’s a good lad to have about the place. He came on and nearly scored a goal.”
Reading manager Brian McDermott described the save Adam Federici made from
Graham’s second header – which came from a corner the first forced – as a “matchwinner”.
The score was 1-1 at that stage with seven minutes left, but instead it was the Royals who won it late, Jimmy Kébé heading in a free-kick from former Sunderland defender Ian Harte for his second goal of the afternoon.
A boyhood Birmingham City fan who started his career at Aston Villa before moving directly to St Andrew’s, Gardner is as well qualified as any in Sunderland’s dressing room to speak about the difficulties Graham will encounter.
He has no concerns about the former Middlesbrough, Carlisle United, Darlington and Chester-le-Street forward’s commitment.
“Being a fan is totally different to being a player,” he argued.