COMMENT: Chopra's experience a cautionary tale for Graham

IT SEEMED quite apt that, on the day of a Newcastle United-supporting striker signing for Sunderland, a former Black and White Black Cat should throw his two penn'orth in.

Soon after Danny Graham had penned a contract at Sunderland from Swansea City on Thursday, Michael Chopra mischievously questioned on Twitter how many Sunderland-supporting players ended up at Newcastle, which served to pour petrol on what is already a touchy subject on Wearside.

Graham's roots may be of a black and white persuasion - not entirely surprising for someone born in Gateshead.

He made comments about supporting Newcastle to a Watford fanzine, and to Tyne Tees TV earlier this season, reminiscing about the Magpies' exploits in the Champions League in the 1990s.

So, when, as expected, he pulls on a red and white shirt for the first time today, will he give anything less than 100%?

The supporters' experiences of Chopra - as well as Lee Clark's T-shirt incident more than ten years ago - have made Graham's start on Wearside more difficult than it should be.

Chopra left Sunderland exactly three years ago, joining Cardiff City on loan which led to a summer deal totalling £4m.

His final game in a red and white shirt came in Sunderland's 1-1 draw at Newcastle United, the club he grew up supporting, and the club he went on to score one league goal for - ironically against Sunderland.

He left Wearside under something of a cloud, owing much to events which transpired during that Sunday afternoon at St James' Park. Sunderland had led through Djibril Cisse, but Newcastle equalised from the penalty spot courtesy of Shola Ameobi.

Chopra, who had spent the first half of the season at Cardiff, was brought back over the festive period by then-manager Ricky Sbragia and was thrown into the fray to face his old employers.

Soon after, he was presented with a golden opportunity to score. Instead, he squared the ball to the incoming Kenwyne Jones, who was tackled.

Sunderland's supporters were furious - not with Jones, but with Chopra, who they felt had 'bottled it', owing to his 'roots'.

In truth, that was not the case. Chopra had long said he wanted to score against Newcastle because they didn't give him a fair crack of the whip.

He didn't score on that day because he wasn't that good a Premier League player.

Chopra was, and perhaps still is, a very good Championship player. But his awareness was just too slow for the Premier League.

But he always gave 100% with Sunderland. So did Clark, that other Geordie who swapped black and white for red and white, his minor indiscretion aside.

Graham has played a similar amount of Premier League football as Chopra, but has scored more goals.

Sunderland fans will be delighted if Graham can emulate Chopra's start to life as a Sunderland player and score on his debut like he did against Tottenham in 2007.

But they will surely hope his Sunderland career does not end in the way Chopra's did.

Graham has got a difficult challenge ahead, but Sunderland fans should have no cause for complaint if he hits the ground running.

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