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Fan Letters: Josh Maja contract situation roundtable - What’s the verdict on what is going on?

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RR readers give their initial reactions to the situation developing between Sunderland and Josh Maja with regards to his contract - what’s the verdict on what is going on?

Fan Letters
Fan Letters
Danny Roberts | Roker Report

Dear Roker Report,

After reading Graham MacMillan-Mason’s piece on Maja I just wanted to dispute his point that there are only two options for the club for his future. Graham said that these options were to sell him at the right price, or keep him until the summer and lose any value in him then.

I would suggest there is a third quite attractive option for both Maja and Sunderland. I suggest Methven and Donald structure a deal with Spurs who apparently are keen on him, whereby they purchase him for say £4 to £5 million and then loan him back to Sunderland for the rest of the season. There is a precedent for this at Tottenham when Daniel Levy did just this in Season 2014/15 with MK Dons and a young guy called Dele Alli. Alli then went back to MK Dons and helped them win promotion before starting his very successful Spurs career the next season.

Maja would be wasted signing for any current Championship club in that he may as well do that for us next season. Secondly, he would not get any game time or first team action at Spurs this season - or for anyone else in the Premier League.

We must accept that we are in the third tier and, therefore, are very much a selling club at present; realistically, we will not be able to hang on to a player like Maja for the next two years. Maja’s a London lad and will be good enough to play at the top level soon as long as he gets the right game time now at Sunderland and under the right coach - namely Jack Ross.

Come on Stewart and Charlie, show us what you are made of and deliver the best deal possible for both Maja and the Club!

Colin Ions

Ed’s Note [JN]: Can’t say I disagree much to be honest - getting him back on loan would be good business if he is going to leave - but I don’t think we’ll get anywhere near that amount, unfortunately, due to the league we are in and the issue of Maja having only six months left on his contract.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

With what Stewart Donald has said on Twitter it appears Maja has been poorly advised by his agent, the agent clearly thinking that it’s time for Josh to make a step up to a higher league.

For me I don’t see him as anything higher than a League One player right now. He’s still developing and the highest he could potentially play is the Championship at which point it’s likely we’ll be there in a few months time anyway.

Whatever the outcome regarding the contract I just hope he sticks it out till the end of the season because he’d be very hard to replace.

Harry Tuckwell

Ed’s Note [JN]: Probably about right, although I think he does have the potential to reach the Premier League level if guided correctly.

Dear Roker Report,

Don’t think much needs said in my opinion. Not bitter in the slightest, he’s [Josh Maja] a great goalscorer so far this season, but his all round game needs work, as I’m sure he would happily admit. He knows if he stays he will get game time, continue to improve and score goals.

We’ve offered what he wants, and if he wanted to stay he would stay. Not buying the bullsh*t about agents anymore, I think it’s easy for players to hide behind them and let them take the stick. He’s big enough now to see what happens to majority of young prospects leaving too early.

His first good half a season and in my opinion he’s choosing to leave to chase money, not more game time in a first team elsewhere. Hope wherever it goes it works out for him, but genuinely don’t believe he fully wants to stay otherwise he would be.

James Robson

Ed’s Note [JN]: I think the agent has been pushed into a corner cleverly by Donald’s statements. He tried to force the club’s hand by leaking information to Sky Sports on the day of our imposed “deadline” and the club fought back.

While I do believe Donald’s word, I don’t quite think it is as simple as what has been portrayed. Maybe Maja has said he would like to stay to the club, but is biding his time keeping both avenues open. I definitely think that there’s more than meets the eye with this one.

Dear Roker Report,

When I was 20-years-old I was earning about £220 a week. If I wasn’t at work on a weekend most of that would get spent down the dog and gun. I’d be happy to get a holiday to Turkey once a year.

I wasn’t earning (and still not) anywhere near what Josh Maja is earning now or could potentially earn. Neither I imagine are most of your readers. So when I say if I was in his position I’d just sign a new deal, he’s doing well, scoring goals, he’d be daft to go, etc. I say that as a Sunderland fan. If I was in his position, at his age, with an agent (whom he’s probably known from being a young kid) advising him not to sign I have no idea what I’d actually do.

We’re not talking about dog and gun money, or a holiday to Turkey once a year money. It’s probably life-changing money to him and his family.

So, I’m not rushing to judgement on the lad. I really hope he does sign because I think he can go on to be a really important player for us over the next few seasons. If he doesn’t sign and we don’t arrange a deal to sell the lad then I’d have no qualms in him staying and playing until the end of the season. Anyone who goes to a match and boos him if he doesn’t sign needs to have a good look at themselves.

Jed Collins

Ed’s Note [JN]: Agreed. It is clearly the biggest decision of his career/life thus far, and he has a big one to make. On the one hand he could move up the leagues and fight for his place, on the other stay where he is adored and continue doing the talking on the pitch.

Either way, him being personally attacked, ridiculed or judged without a decision actually being made is neither helpful to convincing him to stay, and down right idiotic. The same people who ridicule him for being “as old as 20” would also defend him for being “only 20”. Crazy.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Absolute gutter regarding the Maja situation. Obviously, we’d need to find a suitable, like-for-like replacement before we consider offers for him. I’m of the mind that in-light of the concise time period in which we’ve got to fill the considerable void he’ll leave, would it be worth holding onto him until the end of the season, and run the risk of losing him for nothing?

His goals have been paramount for us this season, and without his contribution it may be detrimental to our promotion hopes if he were to leave this month. I, for one, would prefer him to leave for free at the end of the season, if it meant we’d clinch promotion- us being a championship team may even persuade him and his agent to stay.

P.S. there really must be tighter restrictions and regulations on agents and their demands, problems like these occur far too often.

Paddy Hayes

Ed’s Note [JN]: Likewise, even if he does not sign I’d still keep him to the end of the year - what we will get in an event of promotion and the compensation will be more than if we sell, and keeping him is our best bet of reaching promotion.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The current scenario playing out concerning the renewal of Josh Maja’s contract will doubtlessly divide sections of the fan base. Obviously, regardless of playing style debate, he has been a shining light for us in front of goal this season. Additionally, he is for the most part an academy product in which we have invested time and money over the years as a club.

On this basis as an investment it would seem wise for the club to pursue a contract renewal deal at all cost, particularly with him as leading scorer for the club this season at 20 years of age. Personally I feel the club should push to renew within a certain scope but not to the detriment of all.

Over the past 10-12 years at least we have been openly held to ransom by player agents which has two sides in my view. Firstly, we end up overpaying for wages, agents fees and transfer fees (in relation to talent not inflation). Secondly, it has at certain points (culminating in our Championship season) created a culture within the club of careerism at the cost of the team the club and the fans.

Understandably, many will argue that this is not the case exactly with Maja, notwithstanding it is in my mind a slippery slope towards how it has been. The current role of agents indeed in world football is out of control, though the club must strike a balance between not being held to ransom by agents and being able to operate effectively within the footballing world, which of course involves dealing with agents.

Of course the club should try to resolve this matter in favour of Sunderland, though should do so cautiously and within the means of a club that is in the process of rebranding not just in a business sense but also a cultural one.

Reconnecting with the fan base is crucial for the club and how they tackle the contract renewal of Maja will go a long way in determining how far we have come even since last season.

James Atkinson

Ed’s Note [JN]: Agreed. This is a massive barometer of not just how the culture in the club has changed, but this moment will leave a lasting legacy on the early period of the new ownership structure.

There are a few avenues: get him to re-sign; keep him and let him go for nothing in the summer in an attempt to chase promotion, or sell him now. Both of the latter options will have their pitfalls, but if the first (and best) option cannot be reached, we must be promoted and replace adequately.

Whatever happens, and however that does happen, they need to proved (to quote Charlie Methven) that the piss-taking party has stopped.