It’s certainly been a fall from grace for Sunderland AFC, but they’ve had a few things to get excited about in recent years.
Among them, the emergence of a young and exciting striker named ‘Josh Maja’ might rank highly amongst it all! After the club has sustained a second successive relegation into League One by 2018, a number of commercial and financial factors revealed a potential starting place for the young Englishman.
As you can probably understand, some players don’t take being relegated all too well – and their agents might even bank on such an occasion by including a ‘relegation clause’ in their contract to bail them out should that happen. Sunderland would know this all too well as a number of their star players began to leave.
Which must not be a welcome thing to see for people who expected to be there a while. Like Josh Maja …
But up top, they were seemingly not too bothered about what happened there because they could rely on Josh Maja. A player who rose through their scholarship ranks to earn a bit-part role in the season before, then-manager Jack Ross was all too happy to tailor his tactical plans towards maximising Maja’s potential.
Even if that meant relying on the youngster to do his team’s bidding as they ventured forward.
And for the first half of the season (at least), it paid dividends! The striker managed around 15 goals in just over 20 starting appearances for the Black Cats from the beginning of the 2018/19 season. All before the threat of a Bosman move before the season’s conclusion came to fruition with a move to Bordeaux before the end of January. Now, there’s a Netflix documentary that you’re welcome to watch to find out more, but let’s focus on the bit we forget.
A football player’s job is to play football, and nobody can possibly deny that Josh Maja did absolutely everything he could for Sunderland before a better offer came to the table. And the fact that he was recently on loan to Premier League Fulham represents two things: one, that he might have made the right choice, and two, he’s rather good!
As tough as it may sound to supporters of clubs lower down in the English football pyramid, it’s something of an occupational hazard to operate knowing that even your greatest assets are at risk. Worse still, the game nowadays is awash with a number of influences which can make that transition even more inevitable.
Namely, through the behaviours of predatory clubs and even more predatory agents.
On the ball, Josh Maja is a very competent striker when it comes to getting the ball out his feet and angling it towards the game, but off the ball he’s equally impressive. Not just in his ability to track back and defend from the front, but also to sway the defender’s mind and work some space for himself in the tighter areas.
Something he showed regularly even in the developmental setups let alone as a first team regular.
And while at Sunderland, it was clear for all to see against some of the more statuesque League One opponents – hence why he scored so many goals, left many heartbroken when he left … and ought to be remembered for his positive involvement in a time where Sunderland fans had little to smile about.
Though I imagine given their current push to get out of the division, they must be cursing their luck that Josh Maja didn’t remain with the club that little while longer. They’d probably be promoted by now if he had!