Newcastle v Swansea City: Danny Graham is delighted with big St James' scalp
DANNY Graham has enjoyed many victories at Newcastle — but only one as a player.
The Graham family, like many from Tyneside, are mad Magpies fans and Danny used to sit in the St James' Park stands as a boy.
There he was inspired by Alan Shearer and heard stories about other great Newcastle No.9s.
Little did he know that one day he'd be pitting his skills against the men in black and white stripes.
Graham has returned to St James' on a number of occasions with previous clubs, but never finished on the winning side — until Saturday.
"I've been back a few times," he said.
"The first time I came back with Middlesbrough we drew.
"We drew last year with Swansea and I drew there with Watford.
"It's always a nice feeling winning football matches.
"As a kid growing up, coming to the stadium and following the likes of Shearer and (Faustino) Asprilla, to be part on a winning team here is special."
And the Swansea City striker played a key part in his Newcastle's downfall.
With the visitors 1-0 up, Graham's shot was spilled by keeper Tim Krul and Jonathan de Guzman rifled home what proved to be the winning goal. "Thankfully Jonathan tucked it away," smiled Graham.
"The atmosphere was incredible, but being a Newcastle fan, sitting in the stands watching them, it's always a good atmosphere.
"To come and be part of a winning team here is special, especially with all the family sitting in the Newcastle end.
"They obviously want me to do well, but they're mad Newcastle fans so I've got one over on them."
Last weekend was not only a red letter day for Graham, it was also the first time Swansea had won at Newcastle for 32 years.
And it was well deserved.
The visitors played the more incisive football in the first half and should have made more of well-worked openings.
Newcastle too squandered chances, but Swansea were generally well organised in defence.
Last year Swansea achieved standout home results against Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
The only thing lacking from the campaign was a big scalp claimed on the road.
Already this season Swansea have beaten high profile opponents in Liverpool and Newcastle at their own grounds.
"We had some great performances last year at home and we've had some great performances away from home this year as well," said Graham.
"We drew with Chelsea at home, but away form is important.
"To come to Newcastle in front of 50,000 Geordies and win is a massive lift for the club.
"We put in a good performance and we could have scored more goals, it could have been a bit more comprehensive."
Laudrup has tweaked a Swansea approach that brought so much success last season.
Short passing is still just as important, but in defence the pressing game has been largely replaced by well-drilled positional play.
And the swift counter-attacking implemented by Rodgers now looks even sharper.
Swansea break in numbers and at blistering pace.
That tactic was at its most effective at Anfield last month when Swansea scored two breakaway goals to move into the Capital One Cup quarter-finals.
And it is Liverpool who visit SA1 on Sunday.
"We've got two tough games at home," said Graham.
"Liverpool had a good result on Saturday and obviously West Brom beat Chelsea.
"We'll go into those with a lot of confidence now.
"We'll go back to the training ground, work hard and look forward to those games."
Graham is aiming to force his way back into the first-team frame after admitting he's fallen down the pecking order.
The 27-year-old impressed Laudrup in pre-season and started the campaign as his first choice striker.
But lately he has had to settle for a place on the bench.
First Michu was pushed further forwards, then Itay Shechter started up front against Newcastle as an injury to Ki Sung-Yueng prompted a reshuffle.
Graham was introduced for the final eight minutes at St James' Park and made an immediate impact.
The England Under-20 cap provided a reminder of what he is capable of with the shot that led to de Guzman's goal.
And the striker hopes to keep on contributing as he waits for a recall.
"I'm third choice at the minute, by the look of it," said Graham.
"Itay came in and did ever so well, credit to him, he was unlucky not to score, and Michu can also go up top.
"There's extra competition for the places up front.
"It's not only me, there's Luke Moore and Leroy Lita's back from loan so there's healthy competition. I see it as a challenge."
Graham was Swansea's top scorer last season after arriving in a then club record £3.5 million move from Watford.
He struck 12 times in the league and twice more in the cup during a campaign in which he was Brendan Rodgers's preferred option to lead the line.
The Middlesbrough Youth product has also netted three times this season — but only once in the top flight.
That goal came in a 3-0 win against West Ham way back in August.
"I've held my hands up and said it was right I was dropped — I'm not going to hide from that," said Graham.
"It's about how you react.
"The gaffer has said he was happy with the way I reacted and I'm professional enough to understand the ins and outs of football.
"It's going to happen along your career, it's just about how you deal with it."
Despite Graham's dip, Swansea's form has been impressive of late.
Since a narrow defeat at champions Manchester City they have gone four games unbeaten.
Draws with Chelsea and Southampton preceded last weekend's triumph on Tyneside — all of which came after that league cup win at Liverpool.
Now Graham is pushing to be involved in the next clash with the Reds.
"It's about picking up points and good performances," he added.
"I haven't played as well of late and I haven't scored, but I feel I contributed when I came on so that can give me a bit of confidence going into next week.
"Hopefully I can have a good week in training and give the manager something to think about."