When Danny Graham strides on to the Riverside Stadium pitch with Blackburn on Saturday afternoon, he would be forgiven for feeling conflicting emotions.
Middlesbrough was where it all began for Graham. Born in Gateshead, Graham joined the club as a teenager and made his debut aged 19 away at Manchester United in a 1-1 draw. Steve McClaren was his manager, Gareth Southgate was a team-mate and Cristiano Ronaldo was lining up against him.
Graham did not make the grade on Teesside, although he did return there on loan four years ago and still lives there, while his wife, Vicky, and her family are all die-hard Boro fans. “They will be cheering Middlesbrough on, so it would be nice to get one over them,” he says, with a smile. “It’s going to be a special day.”
Graham is having quite a few of those at the moment. He scored a hat-trick in last week’s 4-2 victory over Sheffield Wednesday that took Blackburn up to 10th and within five points of the Championship play-offs, a performance which underlined his importance to Tony Mowbray’s upwardly mobile side.
Most importantly for Graham, he is enjoying his football. That has not always been the case: many still remember him as the striker who scored once in 42 games for Sunderland after joining for £5 million in 2013, a record which did little to endear him to fans who were not prepared to forgive his childhood allegiance to Newcastle, and for once suggesting that he would rather play for Gateshead than Sunderland. Some even sang “you’ll always be scum” prior to him arriving.
More Info: telegraph.co.uk