D Day For Josh

Well, it’s D Day for Josh Maja. Will he sign? Will he go. Will He stay? Jack Ross has been chatting about his favourite 20 year old. “I suppose that’s why I always thought he would stay,” Ross said. “How he is, how he is with me, but as I’ve said before that there’s external factors that go on and take my opinion out of it a bit. But he’s just a really good, really nice young man. He’s got a great temperament, he takes on a lot of information from us. You can see him then using that on the pitch. He’s very harsh on himself sometimes. He’s hard on his performances. Sometimes, if a striker scores it’s just, ‘I did my job’. There’s times where Josh has scored but has been very critical of his all-round play. That shows his determination to improve and it’s such a good thing for him to have. I’d be gutted if he left. Not just because of the obvious one about his goals. I’m really fond of him. I really enjoy working with him and I know it’s the same with my staff, there’s a belief that we can improve him even more. I’ve no issue with him striving to get to the highest level, I’ve absolutely no problem with that. Every player should have that. I just think this is a good place for him at the moment, he’s thriving on it all. People would still have had question marks over whether he could be a first team player this season so it’s been good for him, and I think he does appreciate that. It’s just what he sees as the most appropriate next step. Every conversation I’ve had he says wants to stay at the club. I’ve no reason to doubt that. He’s very humble and I know he appreciates what we’ve done for him this season. He’s been great for me but myself and my staff have been good for him as well. I don’t have any doubt at all that he means it when he says it. It’s just some of the other stuff that goes along with that’s frustrating for me as a manager. But it’s just part of modern-day football. It’s certainly not unique to this club and this player. Sometimes guidance and advice will be right, sometimes it will be very wrong. Only time can tell in that sense.”

So what happens if he doesn’t sign? “It’s a good question [what happens post-deadline], the answer to which probably lies out of my hands,” Ross added. “That’s why I’ve always been keen to stress that nothing changes from my perspective. It’s not abdicating responsibility, I’m part of any conversation and I understand any club has to have a model. There needs to be clarity but the reality is I don’t know. It’s the nature of the game, look at Callum [McManaman] in the summer, he was doing really well for us and then was back to Wigan in the space of 24 hours. I think people think you’re lying sometimes but the reality is it can happen that quickly. I had a very similar scenario with Lewis Morgan. When I was at St Mirren he was making the same kind of contribution and was out of contract. The one difference was that we had clarity he wouldn’t sign a new one. At the time it was drifting and I said, as a club, we needed to weigh it up. I decided he was vital to us winning promotion and that proved to be the case. We managed to find a scenario that was ideal, Celtic bought him and then loaned him back. I’m not saying that would happen with Josh, it’s just a sign of how people might have to be creative in finding a solution. Clearly, that wouldn’t just be my decision.”

Ross believes Maja will still give 100% if he doesn’t sign his contract but stays at the club: “It does help,” Ross said. “It’s obvious to state but it does. It prevents there being any dissent or criticism towards him. I’ve had the conversation with him, that’s something that could happen if he doesn’t commit. It goes with the territory and there’s no point pretending that it isn’t the case. It’s football. I never had any doubt that he would be different because of how he is and my relationship with him but he’s still got to go and do it. His performance at Blackpool was one of someone who is interested and wants to do well for Sunderland. I think his performances in the last three games have been as consistently good as he has been all season. I think it’s been his best run in terms of performance levels.”