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OPINION: Chris Maguire’s selflessness & quality makes him one of Sunderland’s most vital players

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Coming off the bench to rifle one in from 25-yards when we’ve barely had a shot on goal all afternoon is about as good as it gets when it comes to responding to being dropped.

Sunderland AFC

When Chris Maguire was brought on with Sunderland 2-0 down on Saturday, he was tasked with the job of sparking some life into a side that to that point had never looked like threatening Burton’s new goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov - and whilst the result ultimately never changed, it would be fair to say that the man signed from Bury in the summer tried his best to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

That is of course best exampled in the fact he scored such an incredible goal - with Sunderland unlikely to break Burton down playing the way that they had been to that point, Maguire took the ball on and thundered a shot at goal from 25 yards which flew into the top corner of Evtimov’s net.

I’ve heard Maguire described as selfish recently and that quite honestly baffles me.

On the opening day against Charlton it was because of his influence that we went on to win, taking up a leadership role midway through the game as it was quite obvious that we needed someone to step up and give us something extra.

If anything I believe Maguire to be wholly unselfish - his best traits on the field are the way he brings others into play, creates space and carries the ball into areas where other players simply aren’t able to.

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Granted, his tackling can often be rash and, like all playmakers, he’ll have periods in games where we doesn’t offer us a great deal, but when Sunderland aim to play football on the deck you can guarantee that he’ll be the man right in amongst it trying to orchestrate play.

After Saturday’s game Maguire was one of the first players to come out and face the music, and in a conversation with the Chronicle he spoke about how it’s important that we look for positives in analysing our performance:

I think you can see we don’t down tools too easily. I’ve been on the other side of it where you feel sorry for yourselves and your heads drop, and all over the pitch you can see that.

I think it can give us a good kick up the backside here.

We’re in a game. We keep giving goals away and it’s something we want to stop, but I think everybody can see the reaction when we do go behind and we do kick on.

Unfortunately Saturday wasn’t a day when we could come back, but we do know what we have to do.

I think a lot of people would’ve taken one defeat eight games in. We’ve been unlucky in a couple we’ve drawn, but I think it’s a great start and everyone can see we’ve got a real good squad that’s hungry and fights. We’ll go the extra mile.

The former Scotland international spoke passionately about the group as a whole and how they’d react to the result, and it’s heartening to know that the desire and hunger from our more experienced players is there. As Maguire notes, we’ll aim to respond like Champions to our defeat by going ‘the extra mile’ to improve our fortunes. Even the terminology he uses hints at a selfless attitude, favouring collective terms like “we” and “us”.

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Sunderland owner Stewart Donald has maintained his admiration of Chris Maguire right since before he had even signed for the club in the summer, and something he said about the ex-Sheffield Wednesday man on one of his recent appearances on our Podcast still sticks in my memory.

Donald said that Maguire has the type of personality that you need in your team - he said that when the chips are down, you can guarantee that Chris Maguire will not go hiding.

The owner knows this of course as he’s a massive fan of Oxford United, the club where Maguire is universally adored and is seen as a club legend despite spending only eighteen months with the U’s.

Maguire endeared himself to the Oxford supporters by asserting himself as the most vital cog in their side, racking up an abnormally large amount of goals and assists even by his own standards. His time at Bury was far less successful, though as Peter Taylor - a Bury supporter who also happens to be a very talented writer - wrote in this fantastic piece here on Roker Report, the fact he failed to impress in his sole campaign with the Shakers wasn’t necessarily his fault.

So whilst Maguire’s cameo on Saturday ultimately wasn’t result-altering, he did in my opinion put to bed any suggestions that he’s a selfish player.

He entered the field with a positive attitude, and rifled home a shot from range which showed exactly why he should be in the team and starting games most weeks - because he’s one of very few players that Sunderland possess who has the ability to come up with moments of magic just like that in tight games.

Going forward I feel it’s important that we stick by players like Maguire, even when they go through spells of bad form. His experience and quality at this level is a huge asset, and when this team really does get going I have no doubt that he’ll be right at the forefront as one of our most influential players.

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