STEVE BRUCE is convinced that Danny Graham can get the goals to ensure top-flight football at the KC Stadium next season.
The Hull City manager, whose side entertain Cardiff City this afternoon, knows that the success or failure of his goalscoring department will define the Tigers’ season.
Bruce’s attempts to bolster his options with the deadline-day signing of West Brom’s Republic of Ireland international Shane Long for a club record fee collapsed at the 11th hour, much to his disappointment – the rest of his attacking options, aside from Graham, are unproven at the highest level.
That said, Graham lost his scoring mojo at Sunderland last season and failed to find the net in 13 league appearances after heading to Wearside for £6m in January, which saw the Gateshead-born boyhood Newcastle United fan take stick from Black Cats supporters.
It was a different story in 2011-12 when he fired in 12 top-flight goals for previous club Swansea City to help them stay up.
Bruce is sure that if the Geordie plunders a similar total, the Tigers will retain their Premier League tenure come May.
Bruce’s quest as a manager is to re-light Graham’s goalscoring fire, with the marksman – on a season-long loan – having not scored a goal in the top flight since New Year’s Day.
On the importance of Graham to the Tigers, still waiting for their first goal in open play in the league this season, Bruce said: “We’ve given him a new lease of life and I am convinced he can go and get us 10 or 12 goals because he is a good finisher. If he does that, we’ll stay up.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for Danny. He’s done it before, that’s why we brought him here. He looks in really good nick and has trained really well.
“He’s a very good player who has seen it and done it at this level and let’s hope he can recreate the form he showed at Swansea.
“I’ve got no question (about it). He will be fine for us. At the end of the day, he went to Sunderland where he hadn’t played for four or five months. I think a striker in particular needs to play week-in, week-out. Especially someone like him who is physically strong. I think the move here will help him to play regularly.
“I knew how difficult it was for him at Sunderland when the Geordie thing came out for him, but let’s be fair, he only played 12 or 13 times.”
Huddersfield-born forward Fraizer Campbell could well have been lining up for the home side this afternoon instead of for Cardiff.
Campbell, who netted for the Welsh club in a dramatic 2-2 final-day draw at the KC Stadium in May, scored 15 goals in 2007-08 during a fine loan spell which helped the club clinch promotion to the Premier League.
Injuries have bedevilled much of Campbell’s progress since, with Bruce – who signed the Yorkshireman for £3.5m when he was manager at Sunderland in July 2009 – hoping he can find some belated luck with Cardiff, although not this afternoon.
On Campbell, who netted twice for Cardiff in their shock early-season victory over Manchester City, Bruce said: “I tried to bring him here (in January), but he chose Cardiff. Good luck to the lad – after Saturday.
“I took him to Sunderland and he was unlucky there. He ended up scoring four against Hull in pre-season and, just after that, got injured and did his knee twice.
“It was a shame and he is a very, very good player and I hope he stays fit. He’s got a great hunger and attitude.”