Jack Ross wants Josh Maja clarity as Sunderland fears begin to grow over new contract
Jack Ross says he is hoping for clarity sooner rather than later as contract talks with Josh Maja drag on.
The 19-year-old, who is out of contract next summer, has been superb for the Black Cats this season and has already registered 11 league goals.
Sunderland have been in talks with the youngster’s representatives but as January nears, no definitive breakthrough has been made.
“They’ve [talks] continued and they’ve probably been a lot slower than the club would like,” Ross said.
“There’s nothing new on it.
“I do think for everybody’s sake, I think we need to bring it to a head sooner rather than later.
“I think that the longer these situations drag on, I don’t think there’s any benefit to any of the parties involved.
“I’ve not heard anything different or new on it.
“Speaking as a manager, clarity on these things is better than uncertainty.”
Ross has remained hopeful that Maja will commit but there are obvious concerns within the Sunderland hierarchy above him that a solution may not be found.
The Black Cats would then face a choice between trying to cash in next month (and there have already been offers from the second tier), with the prospect of losing him on a free months later looming large.
Maja would be free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with another club from January.
Ross says it would be better for every party if some sort of decision was reached soon.
“It genuinely doesn’t come into my head a lot just because of the number of games we have but equally, I do think about it and I understand that one, it creates uncertainty and two, there needs to be a business model for the club as well,” he said.
“Stewart and Charlie have always known that I buy into that as well. “It’s very easy to be completely selfish as a manager but for me, I want to be here for more than just one or two seasons.
“To help me do that, and to help to the club do that as well, sometimes I have to think bigger picture.
“That’s why I go back to wanting clairty rather than uncertainty.
“It helps me plan, but also helps the club plan and look at what it can do in January and beyond that as well.
“My relationship with Josh has been consistent,” he added.
“That uncertainty, from my point of view and the club’s, but also for him as a young man, he’s still very young but I don’t think anyone deals particularly well with that uncertainty.
“Only he could tell you with certainty what he thinks in his own head but I would imagine that he’s aware of the speculation, and that as things stand, he might not be here beyond May.
“Everything that brings, potentially new surroundings, new team-mates, new house, that creates an uncertainty.
“For everybody concerned, clarity is better. “
The Sunderland boss has enjoyed a close relationship with the promising striker since his arrival on Wearside and remains immensely fond of him both as a talented player and as a person.
He has regularly praised both his maturity and willingness to learn.
So was keen to add that while he hopes Maja stays, the 19-year-old must make his own mind up on what he feels is best for his future.
“There’s elements of the conversations that I don’t get involved in, and neither will he to a degree because of the way the football is nowadays,” he said.
“Certainly the communication I have with him about his own progression is regular and consistent, not just with me but my staff as well.
“He speaks to Potts [John Potter] a lot, the thing that helps him I think is that we’ve been consistent in our approach with him.
“Nothing will ever deteriorate in that sense unless there was something that was really disrespectful, but he would never do that because of how he is.
“You do [communicate] but ultimately, people shouldn’t make their own minds up.
“You can encourage or give your own point of view on what’s best for them but he needs to believe that what he’s doing is the right thing. “
Maja’s case is a fascinating one.
His goalscoring numbers are remarkable and he has shown himself to be an unbelievable talent in the opposition box.
the speed of his footwork has also been a nightmare for opposition defenders and he has without doubt been absolutely essential as Ross and his side pushed their way towards the top of League One.
But his game is far from complete, and a difficult afternoon at Accrington showed he is not the finished article at this level, never mind those above.
“I’ve said publicly that he has a lot to work on, and I’ve said it privately, we work a lot with him,” Ross said.
“The one thing I’d say about him is he is conscientious, and he does think about his game, he understands when he doesn’t play well.
“There’s areas he needs to keep strengthening and improving on to get through the levels, hopefully with us and if not with someone else.
“You can’t rely on just being a really good finisher, which he undoubtedly is.
“It gives me hope because of how he is as a boy that he’ll do that, but Saturday was another learning experience for him.”
Of course, it is a lesson fo the Black Cats that they find themselves in this position to begin with.
Maja was establishing himself as a bright prospect as far back as pre-season in 2017, but Sunderland’s previous regime were slow to act on and reward that obvious potential and improvement on the youngster’s part.
They now find themselves vulnerable as Maja undestandably takes time over the biggest decision of his fledgling career to date.
With January looming large, however, the situation is approach a critical juncture.
Positive talks have been held with Lynden Gooch and Denver Hume, with both eager to extend their Sunderland stays.