Jack Ross '˜getting fed up' of Josh Maja saga and fears time is ticking if Sunderland need to sign a replacement
Jack Ross admits he is '˜almost fed up' of the Josh Maja saga.
The deadline for the 20-year-old to decide on his long-term future has long since passed and there remains no clarity on where he goes next.
With the Black Cats still to receive any indication that he will sign the contract offer on the table, their position is that they must now plan for him not to be here past the summer.
With two weeks left of the January window, however, a number of potential resolutions are still in play.
Maja is free as it stands to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club, and cross-border switches have worked spectacularly well for a number of his agent’s clients.
The player himself is not yet sold on that avenue though, so a January sale cannot be ruled out.
Ross, like the club and those above him, remains very much in the dark.
“There’s been no approach or formal communication from any club,” he said.
“That’s entirely truthful.
“There may have been communication to Josh via a third party, I don’t know. I’m not crying about that, it goes on in football, it happens.
“Where that could potentially lead to, I have no idea.
“What I would say is that I’m edging towards the stage where I’m fed up with it, and we need to resolve it one way or another.
“There’s a few different scenarios within that - Josh going, Josh going and coming back on loan, Josh staying [until the summer], Josh signing a new contract.
“But we need to get to one.
“I’ve been open in our hunt for a striker, but that’s if Josh stays. If he goes we need two and that’s not easy to do in 14 days.
“Without setting deadlines, around this time, [you need clarity] because you run out of time to do proper due diligence [on a replacement].
“Not only that, just the time to get deals done. They are becoming evermore complicated.
“It’s not like computer management, it would be great if you could just say, ‘which player do you want? How much?’, ‘there you go’ boom, done. It’s not like that, it drags on.
“We need the appropriate time so there needs to be clarity one way or another.
“I’ve got a duty of care to the club as well, to make sure we have the best possible chance of gaining promotion.”
Should Sunderland receive a bid, they will have to balance the damage of losing Maja for the rest of the season against the income they would raise.
What replacement they could then secure would be another important piece of the puzzle.
Ross says he will have a say on that dilemma but that the club’s long-term financial model will also be an important factor.
The Black Cats boss has long said that plans are in place should he lose his top scorer this month.
But time will still be needed to execute those plans.
“I’d only have a part say in that, if you like,” Ross said.
“I’m always asked my opinion and I’ll always give it. But it’s not always going to be the only one that matters.
“In that scenario [a significant bid], as a manager I might say no, because it gives me a problem.
“But for the club as a whole going forward, it might be the right thing. From my pespective, clarity would help me to plan as a manager.”
For now, Maja remains an important part of the manager’s plans.
He is fit again after illness and Ross does not believe the ongoing speculation is affecting him.
“It’s my job to try and pick up on any of that, if I feel like it’s concerning him,” Ross said.
“Probably if there’s any point where I thought it might, it would be the Charlton game, where it kind of blew up the day before the game.
“So there’s no change, but I have said to him that for everyone’s sake, clarity would be good.”
There remains every hope that Maja could be a big player between now and the end of the season, even if his long-term future lies elsewhere.
So far his performances have not dipped and, in fact, they arguably improved over the Christmas period.
But a lack of clarity creates a nervousness, particularly while the prospect of a serious swoop from another club remains.
Sunderland’s power over the situation is limited and the sooner they know their fate, the better.
The same surely applies to Maja himself.