Josh Maja happy to extend Sunderland stay as he talks goalscoring and Jermain Defoe's message

Josh Maja has given Sunderland a major boost by saying that he wants to help the team back to the Premier League.

Wednesday, 26th September 2018, 7:00 am
SAFC 1-1 FTFC EFL league1 Stadium of Light 08-09-2018. Picture by FRANK REID

The 19-year-old, who has started the season in sparkling form, sees his current contract expire at the end of the season.

Maja is one of a number of youngsters who will be free to talk to other clubs in January, and after a frantic summer senior management have held meetings internally to discuss the situation.

Maja, asked if he was happy to say should acceptable terms be agreed, said he was enjoying life leading the line for Jack Ross.

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“Yeah, for sure [happy to stay],” he said.

“I’m happy at the club right now.

“All I’m focused on is getting the club back to where it should be and that is the Premier League. This season is a big year for us, we want promotion, to win the league. If we stick together we can do that.

“I think the goals have shown the manager and the club what I can do. As long as I stay grounded and humble, working hard, then more opportunities will come my way.”

The youngster already has seven goals in just nine league games, demonstrating his instinctive finishing in the 4-1 win over Rochdale.

Quiet but confident, Maja says he never had any doubts he could thrive in senior football.

“I always believed that, even when I was younger,” Maja said.

“That any given chance I could take and obviously this season, I’ve been able to show it to Sunderland and to the whole league.

“Hopefully I can continue that. As a striker you don’t want to be second guessing yourself, in my head, you make sure you don’t overthink it, just strike the ball. At the moment it is paying off.

“There were highs and lows last season but I feel more comfortable playing first team football now. Playing under a lot of pressure last season, it was difficult but you need it as a young player. This season I’ve been able to show what I can do.

“I’ve made a good start and as a club we’ve made a good start. The Burton game wasn’t what we wanted but maybe it was what we needed, everything had been on a high and that brought us down to earth.

“You never want to lose obviously, we need to be at it every game.

“In pre-season I showed the manager what I could do both in training and in the games. He’s put his faith in me and I’ve repaid that.”

Maja’s early season form earned him the EFL Young Player of the Month award and a message of praise from Black Cats hero Jermain Defoe.

The 19-year-old was thrilled to get the message from a player he has long looked up to.

“Jermain was a big role model for me, and he supported me when I was moving up to the first team” Maja said.

“To get that support from him was really nice. From a goalscorer like him, it was really good to see.”

Manager Jack Ross said last week that a new contract for Maja would be a priority in the coming weeks.

He said: “He’s one of those they’re very keen to ensure he commits his future to the club. We want him to do that.

“We’re probably getting very close to the stage where we’ll start that conversation properly and it’s blatantly obvious why we would want to do that because he’s an asset to us on the playing side and financially he will be an asset because he’s attractive to other clubs.

“We would like to do that because it’s encouraging having four players from the academy in the line-up - I think that’s a good number and while we’re not doing it every week it justifies the work we do here. We’d like to keep those players for as long as we can.”