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Graham ready to step up

Sunderland striker Danny Graham is aiming to make the most of the opportunity provided to him by the absence of top scorer Steven Fletcher.

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Graham represents the club's most senior striker after Fletcher injured his ankle while on international duty with Scotland last month and with Connor Wickham on loan at Sheffield Wednesday. Believing he is able to lead the club's front line, the former Watford striker has played down the idea of him being under extra pressure to score given the absence of Fletcher.

"I took it (Fletcher's injury) fine, the press can take things how they want," he told the Sunderland Echo. "It's unfortunate that Fletcher got injured, he's been a vital part of the club this season and scored 11 goals. It was a massive blow to the team. But that gives opportunities to other people and you've got to take it."

The £5 million January signing from Swansea is yet to score for his new club, but Graham believes the level of his all-round performances now means the goals will soon come.

"I'll hold my hands up, in my first few games, my performances weren't too good," he said. "But I've set my standard now and hopefully I can maintain that. It was good that [manager Paolo Di Canio] showed he wanted me to be around the place."

The 27-year-old has been heavily praised for recent performances against Newcastle and Everton. Forced to sit out Di Canio's first game in charge at Chelsea through injury, Graham has commended his manager's focus on teamwork.

"I did the knee problem on the eve of the Chelsea game in training," he said. "I had a shot and tweaked it. I had to get a scan to make sure everything was fine. The gaffer didn't want to run the risk in case I was out for the rest of the season. But he came up to me and said he wanted me around the boys, even though I couldn't warm up or anything.

"He wants everyone together so it was nice to be included. I got changed even though I knew I couldn't come on. To be honest, he hasn't done a lot of individual work. It's all been shape and team-work. We do our sessions where the defenders go off and we do attacking stuff, but that's normal. He's all about the team and how he wants us to go about things. The individual stuff hasn't come as yet."

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