Having turned down a League Cup final medal to join Sunderland, Danny Graham is intent on winning fans over with actions, not words, writes Stuart Rayner
THURSDAY was a fitting time for Danny Graham’s first full round of media interviews as a Sunderland player. Minutes before he spoke to the Press, Jamie Carragher announced his retirement from football at the end of the season.
Before Carragher was a Liverpool legend he was an Evertonian. In football it does not matter who you grew up supporting, as long as you give your all for the team you end up at. Graham is hoping that applies to him.
The 27-year-old is not the first Newcastle United fan to wear the red-and-white shirt. He is not even the only one in the first team.
The Gateshead-born striker is not hiding it, or apologising. It was not his boyhood allegiance which made joining Sunderland tricky, more joking to a Watford fanzine that if the Magpies ceased to exist he would rather support anyone but their local rivals.
Graham refuses to fob supporters off with insincere apologies. He has no problem with those who booed him, planning to win them over with actions, not words.
“There is nothing to it, but I’m not going to hide from it,” he says. “Yeah, the comments were made, they came out, whatever. As footballers there’s a lot worse about other people.
“For me now it is about putting that to bed and showing how committed I am to the club. Score a few goals and I’m sure that will all be forgotten and we can move on.”
With other options, Graham could easily have been put off by his reception as a Swansea City substitute less than 48 hours before his widely-anticipated transfer. To say the South West Corner of the Stadium of Light was hostile is putting it mildly.
“The game couldn’t have happened any worse for me,” he acknowledges with a laugh. “Swansea v Sunderland two days before deadline day!
“In the back of my mind I knew I was going to get the abuse I got. It’s fine. I totally understand that. You get it everywhere you go anyway. I was expecting not to come on to be honest! I was thinking I was going to be safe!
“I wasn’t contracted to Sunderland. I massively expected it, but the reaction I’ve had since I signed and showed I wanted to be here has been totally different.
“I had no problem with the booing. None at all. The reception I got at the Madejski (Stadium, where he made his Sunderland debut four days later) was unbelievable and I was delighted with that.
“I’m not the first Newcastle fan to play for this club, and people have come here and had successful times. I want to score as many goals as I can and the fans will see my commitment as soon as I get time on the pitch.
“I play in the ideal position to create a relationship with the fans.”