Sunderland misfit merited another go

Danny Graham in action for Sunderland against Liverpool.
Danny Graham in action for Sunderland against Liverpool.

DANNY GRAHAM has deserved an opportunity to make an unlikely first-team return for Sunderland, insists Gus Poyet.

Graham made his first Premier League appearance in a red and white shirt since May 2013 in last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool after injury and illness had ruled out fellow frontmen Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore.

The 29-year-old’s outing from the bench came less than a fortnight after he returned from a loan spell at Wolves, with the Championship outfit opting against extending his spell at Molineux.

With Fletcher expected to shake off a groin strain for this weekend’s trip to Spurs, and Poyet eager to strengthen Sunderland’s attacking options in the January transfer window - potentially with Altidore departing - Graham’s involvement is unlikely to be a long-term measure.

But after Graham’s performances were sharp in training last week, Poyet believes the £5million frontman merited an outing against Liverpool, where he did produce an improvement to Sunderland’s attacking play during the final 15 minutes.

“I’m pleased for him,” said Poyet.

“I always say that depending on what you do, you will have a chance.

“It’s not me not liking him or not wanting him. It’s up to the players.

“He was there for what he’s been doing, so we’ll see next week.

“We had some important players up front missing.

“We waited until the right time to have a go, but the players tried their best.”

Sunderland, who spent the summer trying to offload Graham after his return from loan spells at Hull and Middlesbrough last season, sanctioned the frontman’s loan move to Wolves in November, with the Black Cats still supplementing a portion of his wages.

Championship strugglers Wigan have been rumoured to be interested in taking Graham on loan, with Latics boss Malky Mackay working with him at Watford.

But Poyet insisted last week that Sunderland had not received any formal approaches for Graham, who has another 18 months to run on his contract at the Stadium of Light.

Meanwhile, Sunderland’s Under-18s will attempt to secure an FA Youth Cup fifth round clash against Newcastle United tonight.

The Black Cats youngsters host Ipswich Town at the Stadium of Light tonight (kick-off 7pm)in the fourth round of the competition, with the winners facing the Magpies at home.

Tickets for tonight’s game are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.