Josh Maja reacts after landing prestigious award and picks his goal of the season so far

Josh Maja says he is delighted to have repaid Jack Ross' faith after being named as the EFL young player of the month for August.

Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 11:40 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 11:42 am
Josh Maja has been named the EFL young player of the month for August

The award spans all three league divisions and Maja has won after starting the season is stellar form, scoring four goals for the Black Cats.

He has since taken that tally to five with a clever finish against Fleetwood Town earlier this month.

The 19-year-old is determined to keep his place in the team and keep scoring goals, having started every league game so far this season.

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"I always had it in my mind that I would be involved [this season] but I wasn’t sure whether I’d be starting games," he said.

"The manager has put his faith and me and I’ve had those opportunities, and I’ve been able to repay that faith so I’m grateful [to him] for that."Scoring goals is one that comes naturally to me so as long as I’m doing that the manager is going to find it hard not to pick me but it is about working hard, staying humble and grounded and staying in the team."

Maja's goals have been the bedrock of Sunderland's season so far and he is beginning to make a habit of catching opposition goalkeepers off guard, shooting early and instinctively from the edge of the area.

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"I think it’s instinctive, I’ve never really worked on that as a set thing {shooting from distance] but I think as a striker you have natural things and I think that’s one of them," he said.

"The one against Luton would probably be my favourite though, just because of the way we kept the ball, the way Lynden slid it through for me and it was a nice, comfortable finish for me. That’s my favourite one."

An injury to Charlie Wyke means that Maja's gametime is unlikely to be reduced any time soon, but manager Ross does have a decision to make as to whether he moves Jerome Sinclair infield to partner the youngster.

That worked well on the opening day of the season against Charlton Athletic but Maja is happy playing either role, and despite losing to Burton at the weekend he remains convinced Sunderland are on the right track this season.

"I think I can do both," he said.

"As a striker on your own you have a lot of responsibility to work hard and hold the ball up for your team. If you’re playing with someone that link-up play is important, I think I can do both.

"It’s a very difficult league, it’s physical, it’s hard work.

"As a team we have started off really well and I think as long we keep playing our football, keep listening to the manager, we’ll win promotion. That’s our goal, it is about staying together as a team. We’re going to keep that confidence, Burton was just one game. There’s a lot left to play."

Jack Ross confirmed last week that a new contract for Maja, as well as George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, Denver Hume and Bali Mumba, is a top priority for the club.

Maja's contract expires at the end of the current season and he would be free to speak to other clubs in January if an agreement is not reached before then.