January is soon looming and the decisions facing Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch, two players who have contracts which run out in the summer, are massive.
Do they stick with Sunderland, continuing to relish their current glory, or do they move on to another club in an attempt at boosting their career where they might not be necessarily be afforded the same chances as they are here?
Sunderland’s hopes of regularly scoring goals rest - not entirely but heavily - on the involvement of Josh Maja on the field and so to have him taken in January really could be detrimental to the team’s successes this season.
Named as EFL Young Player of the Month for August, it’s clear why Sunderland would want to hold on to him; however, other clubs in the Championship and even perhaps the Premier League will begin to notice Maja’s talents, which will pose a threat to Sunderland if any clubs do take interest.
League One top scorers:— TheNinetyTwo (@TheNinetyTwo_) October 14, 2018
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ - Josh Maja
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ - John Marquis
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ - Kieffer Moore
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ - Matt Godden
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ - Lyle Taylor
Who will finish the season as the top scorer?
Academy-raised Lynden Gooch also appears to have forged a connection with our football club. Similar to Maja, Gooch has also been in good form so far this season as he’s netted three goals and provided four assists.
This strength of character displayed by the United States international and his desire to play and win games shines through in his performances making him an important member of the squad.
However, neither Gooch or Maja have signed new contracts yet, with both expiring in June of next year. Subsequently, with no long-term deals in place, it seems it would be easy for both players to find new teams in the new year if they so wished.
I believe that having players like those two out on the field - who understand and have become accustomed to the club and the way the team works - are invaluable members of our squad. Skill and ability are one thing, but experience is a whole other; we’re fortunate enough that Gooch and Maja are developing both of these traits.
Whilst other players could come in and fill those boots, will they smoothly blend into the squad? That’s a risk I personally wouldn’t be willing to take; however, we may be forcibly pushed re-evaluating our position should a tempting offer come along.
Now, of course, I have no idea about the financial and contractual sides of football - I simply go for the day out and love of watching my team play, so who am I to be offering advice to anyone?
Frankly, I’m no one. However, as a young supporter I can confidently say I feel I’ve missed out on admiring my own cult heroes. Yes, we had the promotion year with Keane, but my older Sunderland supporting friends will insist it was “before your time”, “before you could truly appreciate it” - and I agree with them.
I want more than ever for young Sunderland fans growing up to be able to idolise players and want to grow up to be just like him or ask their parents for a replica jersey with a players name on the back; both things the club appears to have lacked in previous seasons.
It seems wrong for Maja and Gooch to have a good spell over five months and then leave, before they and fans alike can appreciate this adulation.
It loops back to the age-old question of whether the grass is truly greener.
I reiterate that it feels to me that it would be wrong for two young, talented players to lose sight of what they’re aiming for at Sunderland and move on to another higher-placed club where they’ve got to start all over again. Let’s just hope that, sooner rather than later, Sunderland get these two players tied down to longer term deals - for everyone’s sake.