DANNY Graham’s all-round contribution has been just as important to Sunderland’s revival as his first goal in red and white, believes Dick Advocaat.
Graham finally ended his wait to break his Sunderland duck in last weekend’s win at Everton – two-and-a-half years after the frontman’s £5million move to the Stadium of Light.
The 29-year-old’s fortuitous goal helped to secure back-to-back league wins for the first time this season, and crucially moved Sunderland out of the relegation zone.
But while Graham’s deflection has the potential to be a pivotal moment in Sunderland’s hopes of beating the drop, head coach Advocaat says the ex-Swansea’s man overall contribution cannot be overlooked either.
Graham has helped Sunderland take seven points from their last three games by providing the Black Cats with an attacking focal point, which Advocaat believes has benefited the whole team.
Advocaat told the Gazette: “It is important for a striker that he scores goals, but it is also important for the team that he can keep hold of the ball and protect it.
He gives everything, even in training. He never moans, he’s a real pro, you can see that.Dick Advocaat
“That gives other players the opportunity to support and then you start playing football.
“The movement we have in the team still has to improve, but we’ve had a better feeling about it.
“He gives everything, even in training. He never moans, he’s a real pro, you can see that.
“I had no doubts when you saw him in training that he would get that goal.”
Only relegated Burnley have netted fewer Premier League goals than Sunderland this season, yet the Black Cats have managed five in their last three games.
Strike trio Graham, Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe have all found the net during that run, and Advocaat believes it has simply been a case of giving the attacking options an opportunity to get on the scoresheet.
“We have three players up front now who can do something,” added Advocaat.
“We’ve scored five goals in the last three games, which for us is a lot.
“But they need to score more!
“We had great chances against Stoke to score.
“And when you start creating chances, you start scoring as well.
“Connor, Graham and Defoe know how to score because they’ve done it in the past.
“They’ve not forgotten it. It comes back.”