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Roker Roundup: Sunderland owner Stewart Donald gives details on relations with Josh Maja’s agent

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Sunderland owner Stewart Donald went in-depth on his dealings with Josh Maja’s agent in the latest edition of the Roker Rapport Podcast.

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Donald on Maja’s contract status

Sunderland owner Stewart Donald joined us on the Roker Rapport podcast yesterday afternoon - details on how to listen are down below - and during the interview he discussed the revelation that came out on Friday that Josh Maja would not sign the new contract offered to him by the club.

After Donald found out about Maja not signing the new contract when Sky Sports rang him for comment, the chairman revealed the situation on Twitter, which caused some criticism that it should have been kept in house. Donald said why he believed he had to go public with that information:

A few people say we should keep it in house, well we kept it all in house up until then. Nobody knows quite what it is we’re negotiating with Josh and it’s all moving along.

Then I got a phone call saying Josh has turned his contract down, Jack knew nothing about that, I knew nothing about that and we also got told that shortly there will be a montage of Josh on Sky TV, showing all his goals.

I haven’t answered all the Josh Maja questions before, Jack’s managed that very well and batted it off whilst we’re negotiating.

We don’t want to make it public, we want to keep it private but we won’t have it going out to the press for us then to be put into a position where we have to answer.

That’s why it has become public this weekend, people can disagree or agree but the basic premise of what was said is that Josh Maja has turned his contract down and his deadline is expired. His deadline didn’t expire, I’m not quite sure who said that or why they have said that but that wasn’t the case.

Donald then criticised the player’s agent, who he said he has either turned up late for meetings or even failed to turn up at all:

We’ve tried relentlessly to get this contract situation done and Josh has maintained all the way through that he wants to stay at Sunderland but Richard [Hill] went to meet the agent and he turned up two-and-a-half hours late. I then went to meet the agent, he didn’t turn up at all, after specifically going to where he wanted to go in the country and he didn’t turn up to talk to me.

I said to Josh today, the most frustrating thing in all of this is that we have been treated by his agent with no respect, in our opinion.

Now his agent, we have been having dialogue over the weekend and I don’t think he’s the most popular individual and it’s fair to say he’s not mine but one thing I’m not, is I’m not a liar. He has told me that he didn’t contact the media and I have got in black and white that he did, from that media outlet.

Despite the club’s wish to retain Maja’s services, Donald hopes for quick resolution so it does not cause the season to go off the rails:

Josh is one player and we don’t want that derailing us at the most important time of the season, so we need a resolution.

So I said I would come and see him today, he’s a lovely lad, very easy to talk to, he wants to sign for Sunderland but he also values the advice of his agent.

So he wants to talk it through with his agent.

He also said that the club would not stand in Maja’s way of a Premier League move materialised for the 20-year-old:

If you think you can get a move to the Premier League and that’s really what you want to do, I don’t think the club will stand in your way and we’ll get a replacement.

But you’ve got to tell us what’s going on and your agent isn’t communicating, until the point he wants to have a go at us saying we’ve told Sky TV that he’s moving or turned his contract down.

Why would we do that? We don’t need to sell Josh, we don’t want to sell Josh and we want Josh to be part of our squad. He is saying the same.

Donald once again laid his frustrations at the door of Maja’s agent, with them being unable to even answer the simplest questions regarding the player’s intentions but again reiterated that Maja told the club just yesterday that he wants to stay at Sunderland:

It is unbelievably frustrating but we have spent two or three months trying to get a deal done with Josh, his agent’s not turned up, he’s turned up late, he hasn’t responded and I said to Josh ‘Why is that?’.

When I queried four points over the weekend that needed a three line answer, he dealt with the one point that had nothing to do with whether Josh wanted to sign and he said very simply that it was just too much to answer and I said “what, writing one line saying Josh wants to sign or he doesn’t, or he will sign if you do this or he won’t sign if you don’t do that? That’s too much for you to convey to me?

The agent has now also spoken to Jack, who has told the agent that he doesn’t think that the way he has conducted himself is correct.

We said to Josh that his agent is a reflection of him in that sense but he’s a young lad and we don’t expect to be treated like that, we don’t treat Josh like that and Josh takes all that on board and will try to get a resolution very quickly on this.

We are at the stage now that we need to decide one way or the other and whatever it is, Josh Maja will move on and we’ll move on, whether that’s together or separately and if you asked me to call which way it would go, Josh said said he wants to stay, he said that today.

The subject of a possible release clause being inserted into the player’s contract also came up, a move which should have pleased all parties but has not been responded to by the agent:

I’ve suggested putting a provision in there in case somebody does come in, obviously what we’re talking about is a release clause.

I said you’re 5 months away from earning no money and you might get injured, if you want the best of both worlds, why don’t you ask? Why doesn’t your agent say ‘alright this is the offer now but I would like a release clause for X’.

He hasn’t asked us, why has he not asked us? Because if we put a release clause in there, it means somebody has got to pay us X amount and, I might be wrong but, the more a football club pays us, the less they can pay an agent.

What does the agent get if Josh Maja stay with us? Not as much as if he moves.

Now the agent is saying the complete opposite of that, he’s saying he just wants the best deal for Josh, that he hasn’t contact Sky or any body else about Josh and that we’ve released it.

They’re the facts and people can decide for themselves that we’ve acted improperly or the player’s agent.

Finally, Sunderland’s owner said he has given Maja a couple of days grace to talk his future over with his family:

What matters is, not ruining out team spirit, not ruining what we’re trying to build, creating a culture whereby everybody wants to be here for all the right reasons.

We treat people with the right level of respect and Josh Maja has done that as well.

The ball is in his court, he has said he wants to sign, he wants to talk to his family and he’s going to tell us once he talks to his family what he wants to do.

We’ve given him a couple of days grace on that.

Stewart Donald spoke about a number of subjects during our interview and you can listen to it in full by subscribing with iTunes, Acast, Spotify and YouTube.

Gillingham v Sunderland Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Ejaria joins Reading

After recently terminating his loan spell with Steven Gerrard’s Rangers, Liverpool midfielder Ovie Ejaria has join Championship outfit Reading on loan until the end of the season.

Ejaria also had a difficult spell on loan at Sunderland last season as we were relegated to League One but will join a familiar face at the Madjeski Stadium as he links up with former Sunderland captain John O’Shea.

Royals manager Jose Gomes was delighted to sign the 21-year-old, as he told ReadingFC.co.uk:

In Ovie we have signed a player who is comfortable with the ball at his feet, can pass the ball quickly and effectively to make things happen in the final third and who shows a composure which is rare in such a young central midfielder. I am really looking forward to working with him at Reading.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Competition for Morgan

As mentioned during Monday’s Roundup, Sunderland have again been linked with Celtic forward Lewis Morgan, due to the player slipping down the pecking order at Celtic Park.

The 22-year-old shone for Jack Ross at St Mirren before moving to Celtic but has struggled to cement a place at Celtic but his potential availability on loan has also alerted Hibernian.

According to the Daily Record, Neil Lennon is interested in the Scottish international after Martin Boyle picked up a serious knee injury while on international duty with Australia.