Given backs Graham to shine in familiar surroundings

BACK AGAIN: Danny Graham has returned to Middlesbrough on loan and is likely to make his first start this afternoon

BACK AGAIN: Danny Graham has returned to Middlesbrough on loan and is likely to make his first start this afternoon

First published in Sport Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

SHAY GIVEN has backed Danny Graham to put a difficult year behind him by rediscovering his goalscoring form at Middlesbrough.

Graham was a deadline day signing for the Teessiders along with Peterborough’s Lee Tomlin after Hull City agreed to cancel the striker’s loan deal from Sunderland.

The Gateshead-born front man has endured a difficult 12 months since leaving Swansea City having failed to make an impact at the Stadium of Light following a £5.5m deal.

He managed only one goal throughout 2013 after being shipped out on loan to the KC Stadium, but Given believes being back in familiar surroundings will help the 28-year-old rediscover his form.

“Danny is a great signing for the club,” the Boro keeper said. “He has not been scoring many goals in the Premier League in the last 12 months but he is back home, almost, he’s back at the club where it all started.

“He will be desperate. He will admit that 2013 was not a great year for him. But he was at Sunderland and Hull who did not score too many goals. He will be desperate to get the goals.”

In his last season in the Championship with Watford, Graham notched 27 times before earning a big move to the Premier League and Boro will be hoping he can recapture similar form in his time back on Teesside.

The forward is in line to make his first start since returning to the club when Blackburn visit the Riverside this afternoon with Boro desperate for someone to alleviate their problems in front of goal and Given confident Graham is the man for the job.

He said: “If he can get a few then he will be back firing again. I remember playing a few years ago for Aston Villa against him at Villa Park. He was the best player on the pitch by a mile. I am not sure if he scored, but his work-rate was phenomenal and he was absolutely fantastic. He is a quality player.”

The Teessiders go into this afternoon’s game on the back of a slight wobble after an unbeaten run of six games was ended at league leaders Leicester City a fortnight ago.

That festive streak moved Aitor Karanka’s men to within five points of the play-offs, but despite that gap opening up to nine points after a defeat and two draws, Given believes Middlesbrough can still challenge for a top six finish.

“There are so many games left. There are still 16 games left. If we can go on a run then there’s no reason why we can’t close that gap,” said Given, who will return to parent club Aston Villa on February 28.

“Just recently we had six wins and we shot right up the league. If Danny (Graham) and Lee (Tomlin) can come in and start to score goals and we can keep it tight at the back, then it could happen. The Championship is so close.

“If we can go on another run we would be right in the mix. Look at Palace and Hull last year. Hull went on a run after Christmas. They were three quarters round the league and ended up getting automatic promotion.

“There’s no reason why this group can’t get in the play-offs if they go on a run. They have got to believe that. If we can sneak back into the play-offs that would be great, because Middlesbrough is set up to be in the Premier League.

“It has been nice to get away from the relegation threat but we have struggled to score goals recently, we need to find them to climb back in.”

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