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Feb 4, 2013

O'Neill thinking about new role for Fletcher

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has said he will reconsider Steven Fletcher's role in the team following the recent arrival of Danny Graham from Swansea.

• Graham out to win fans over
• Blog: Long-distance fan's loneliness

Fletcher has carried the majority of the load up front on his own this season since his arrival from Wolves in August, but O'Neill feels that, following the signing of Graham - who joined for £5 million on transfer deadline day - he may be able to deploy the Scotland international in a different role.

"We'll see, we'll develop something with them - I don't see it being a problem," the manager told the Journal. "Steven Fletcher, although he's been brilliant as a centre-forward, I think can drop in and easily play in another position. We'll see what develops with the two of them playing together."

Graham's arrival at the club caused some unrest among Sunderland fans because of his support for rivals Newcastle, with some booing him when he came on as a substitute for Swansea at the Stadium of Light last week.

O'Neill, though, says that does not bother him provided Graham gives his all for the club.

"I wasn't worried," he said. "It's quite some time since Danny made those remarks to that fanzine [criticising Sunderland]. It's something that's not going to change.

"He was brought up as a Newcastle supporter. Nothing wrong with that. He wanted to come here, in a professional capacity, and he wants to do well. I'm delighted.

"I was impressed with him. He's with us and he wants to do well and I think, in his interviews, he has a bit of determination about himself. I think he'll improve our team.

"The travelling supporters - who have been fantastic - gave him a good reception [at Reading on Saturday], and by the time he goes back to the Stadium of Light, it will be fine. He'll score a goal or two for us, and that's what he wants to do. I think that what went on before will be put on hold."

Those sentiments were echoed by midfielder Craig Gardner, who faced a similar scenario when joined Birmingham from rivals Aston Villa in 2010.

"Whatever's happened in the past happened in the past," Gardner said. "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.

"Being a fan is totally different to being a player. Whoever you play for, you give 150% for them. His job's with Sunderland now. He'll run his heart out. Nobody's even talked about how good Danny Graham is and how good a player he can be for Sunderland. He'll show that."

Graham was a second-half substitute during the 2-1 defeat at Reading, twice coming close to scoring for Sunderland.

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