Football - Di Canio backing for Graham

Paolo Di Canio has backed striker Danny Graham to help drag Sunderland out of relegation trouble, even if he does not break his scoring duck.

PA Sport

The 27-year-old, a £5million January signing from Swansea, is yet to find the back of the net in eight appearances for his new club, and with leading scorer Steven Fletcher ruled out for the rest of the campaign, he is the only frontman with Barclays Premier League experience at the Italian's disposal.

However, Di Canio saw enough in Graham's individual display in Sunday's 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle, during which he was denied what looked likely to be a certain goal when he was hauled back by Steven Taylor in an incident which was missed by referee Howard Webb, to believe he will play a key role during the remaining five games of the campaign.

Asked if Graham's personal drought had affected his confidence, the 44-year-old said: "It can happen, but to him it didn't happen because I have seen him really focussed and in a good mood.

"That proved that even if sometimes strikers are selfish - they have to be selfish sometimes, but not too much, because when they are in front of the goal, I don't want to see tippy-tappy, I want see them strike and destroy the goal.

"But the fact that he is in a good mood, he has proved to me that he is intelligent, that first of all, it's the team.

"We won, we won in style. He feels the cause and he is full of confidence. I'm sure it doesn't affect him that he hasn't scored since he came here because he is sure now.

"Sometimes people don't understand - strikers have to score goals. But sometimes they are crucial even if they don't touch one ball, in my opinion, and Graham did this job and was amazing.

"But I am sure that before the end of the season, he is also going to score important goals."

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