Jack Ross' message to Josh Maja as his Sunderland contract saga continues
Jack Ross has urged Josh Maja to continue his development at Sunderland - and to use the scrutiny being placed on his contract decision as a learning experience.
The 20-year-old was offered an improved deal at the Stadium of Light following a dazzling start to the season, but Stewart Donald revealed on Friday that Maja's agent had advised his client to turn down the terms offered.
Ross kept faith with the striker for Saturday's trip to Charlton, and insists he will continue to do so despite heavy media speculation linking him with an exit from the club.
Indeed, the Sunderland boss is keen to see Maja use that scrutiny to his advantage, by treating it as a valuable experience in his progression as a footballer.
"I've forged a good relationship with Josh in a short space of time and I genuinely care about his career and how he progresses, and I would love that to be with us," said Ross.
"The great thing is that we've been consistent, and I have been from a management side, about how he view the situation.
"I think that's helped Josh, and those that were at the game on Saturday will have seen a performance that was not affected by the things that had gone on the day before.
"That's encouraging not just for me, but for him as a young player as well."
"Even on Friday, I had another chat with him and if I felt the situation had affected him negatively in any way then we wouldn't have started him on Saturday.
"He is a really, really strong man and he's serious about his football as well.
"He's found himself in a situation which develops in football on a daily basis due to the scrutiny we're under 24/7.
"For him, it's another learning experience and I would say irrespective of how the situation pans out, it will be of benefit to him for the rest of his career."
Ross confirmed last week that no bids had been submitted for his top scorer, and that is yet to change despite the contract snub.
Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Newcastle have been linked with the 15-goal man in recent days, but Ross still believes his development is best served by staying on Wearside.
"The communication I've had with Stewart [Donald] today is that we are as we were," he revealed.
"He'll continue to be part of my squad as long as he trains and performs in matches as he has done.
"It sounds very obvious, but I do think we have been good for him.
"We gave him an opportunity at this club to continue his pathway to senior football and this season has been a platform for him to show he can handle first-team football, which he has taken to his credit.
"I would believe that he would continue to improve in this environment because we've shown that to date."