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Talking Points: Let’s all get on the same page with Josh Maja - he’s Sunderland’s next big thing

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Sunderland fans appear to be split on Josh Maja and what should happen with him if he doesn’t sign a new contract. But, as shown again yesterday, he’s our most important goalscorer - all of us getting on the same page and behind him is vital to his continued development.

Chilly day at the SoL
Sunderland AFC

Clinical Maja proving his doubters wrong

Anyone who has watched Josh Maja regularly this season can probably concede two things about his ability - he’s incredibly clinical and deadly when in scoring positions, and his all-round game needs some fine tuning. He is, after all, just 19 year old and we have to accept that young players making their way in the game are going to make mistakes.

Yes, he can be frustrating to watch in close matches where you need him to offer a presence, and yes, he’s not quick enough or strong enough at times, but for all the flaws in his game he’s shown continually this season why he’s a huge asset to this team.

I’ve seen people say that they wouldn’t be sad to see Maja leave (provided, of course, he’s replaced with someone as good or even better) and I’ll hold my hands up - I do think some of the figures that have been bandied about are tempting. But, as evidenced yesterday, he’s the best goalscorer in this team and we’d be undoubtedly worse off for not having him.

Maja’s still not signed a new contract - why, I don’t know. Stewart Donald has said he’s keen to stay, which is great, but it would be nice to see that put to bed sooner rather than later.

He showed against Bristol Rovers just how important he is to this squad - no other Sunderland player is capable of scoring the kind of goal that he scored to win us the game yesterday. How many times this season has he put the ball away in that manner, in tight games where we’ve struggled to get on top of our opponents?

Let’s all get on the same page - we’re a far better side with Josh Maja to call upon, so lets get behind the lad and give him our full support. Acknowledge he needs to refine his game, yes, but also remember that he’s still a teenager and he’s going to not only make mistakes, but improve from doing so.

On target.... again.
Sunderland AFC

Lucky - still waiting for a big performance

Sunderland were very poor for most of the first half and deservedly went behind. Then, after getting ourselves ahead, the woodwork saved us from dropping two points right at the death.

We can’t play well in every game of course, but it is interesting that whenever we come up against a team who people expect us to easily beat, the evidence of the performance shows that they’re often a lot closer and that we struggle to actually dominate.

I’m still waiting for a real stand-out performance from the lads this season - the kind that we can really look back on and say, that was the day we showed we were capable of becoming champions. We’ve not seen it yet, but it will come eventually - when, I have no idea.

The likelihood is that next Saturday we’ll see a far more open game of football, and that could work to our advantage. Portsmouth are going to have the same mindset as us going into it - knowing that this is the biggest game of the season yet, and that taking three points would be a massive statement.

But, we have to be one hundred times better than we were against Bristol Rovers if we’re going to beat Pompey, because whilst the fact we came from behind to win and were perhaps unlucky not to have scored more was great, we were playing the most out of form side in the league, at home, and really we should have made easier work of it.

Jack Ross won’t have been happy with the performance yesterday
Sunderland AFC

Busy schedule taking its toll

Reece James was injured in the warm-up, Jon McLaughlin’s back went out during the game, and Tom Flanagan didn’t even make the squad - the fact we seem to be playing so often is clearly having its toll on the squad as we head into a busy period.

Thankfully, there are no midweek games this week and we have a clear schedule to prepare for the big game at Pompey, but we can only hope that the rest of the players get through their Bristol Rovers recovery unscathed.

This is the advantage of having a big squad, though - being able to call upon the likes of Bryan Oviedo, Glenn Loovens and Robbin Ruiter as your backup, in the third tier, is fantastic and I guess stresses the point that we really should have more than enough for most teams in this league.

Sunderland named a very strong bench yesterday
Sunderland AFC