Josh Maja's big decision analysed, what we know so far and why Sunderland will remain hopeful
Speculation regarding Josh Maja's future has reached fever pitch in recent days.
A raft of clubs from the top two divisions have been linked with a move as the January window moves ever closer.
So what do we know about the situation so far?
We take a close look and offer some encouragement that Sunderland can keep a hold of their prized asset.
THE PLAYER'S VIEW
Maja spoke about his Sunderland breakthrough in September and crucially, said that he would be happy to extend his stay at the club.
"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.”
Since then, nothing has changed.
Jerome Sinclair has added extra competition for his place (as Charlie Wyke will in the coming months) but Maja has continued to get regular minutes and his goalscoring has gone from strength to strength.
Few teenagers in the Football League are getting the platform Maja is at the Stadium of Light.
Not only was he the first to reach 10 league goals, that tally is more than double the next best effort.
Of course, Maja has more than repaid that faith and it is no exaggeration to say that his supreme finishing is one of the absolute key factors in Sunderland's rise to the automatic promotion spots.
He is more than entitled to 1) push for a contract that reflects that, and 2) to want to test those talents in the Championship and beyond.
The positive for him is that Sunderland are happy to reward his progress financially and that as it stands, promotion looks a very real prospect.
If the worst happened this season then both club and player could reassess. There would no doubt still be plenty of interest.
For now, however, there would seem little benefit in jumping to the bottom half of the Championship when regular football would not be guaranteed.
Talk of Premier League interest, at this stage at least, is unlikely to be too tempting for a player who has already experienced the ruthless nature of those academies and clubs.
The 19-year-old is not a player to have his head easily turned.
Only Maja has the answer to the conundrum, but the sings are positive and as of yet, transfer rumours should not be cause for too much concern.
THE MANAGER'S VIEW
Ross was asked for an update after Maja's latest goal on Saturday, and while the Black Cats boss had no definitive update, he offered a good insight into the reasons he is hopeful the 19-year-old will commit.
"No, not at the moment," he said.
"As a manager, and I think the owners know this, that I am invested in trying to progress the club as a whole.
"Ultimately as a manager you have to be concerned with the very short term, that is the nature of the job.
I know Josh will be a player with me until minimum January and I would expect him to be here longer than that.
"We can't say that with certainty until everything is resolved from a contractual point of view but I have every confidence he will remain at Sunderland certainly for the foreseeable future.
"I think he will [sign].
"I have every confidence, what I do know is he is enjoying his football, playing regularly, contributing and you sometimes forget how young he is," he added.
"He played against Morecambe and was younger than some of the players that made their debuts that night, to score 11 goals at his age, he deserves huge credit.
"You have a feel for him as a personality and a young man, how he is, he is very polite and humble, and has built a good relationship with me and my staff.
"I have never once had any hint of him being distracted in anyway, today was evidence of that, he didn't start the game but came on and scored.
"He is as good a finisher as I have worked with in and around the box, his ability to hit the back of the net from not always easy opportunities."
Maja has spoken warmly both of Ross as a manager and the faith he his shown in his talents.
It's another reason why the 19-year-old is happy to see his future on Wearside.
While Ross has occasionally preferred Jerome Sinclair, his respect for Maja is obvious and the pair enjoy a fruitful relationship.
Ross speaks fondly of the youngster and his appetite to learn, to take feedback from the coaching staff and to get a better understanding of how his all round game can develop.
So far, it's a relationship working well for both parties and there's no reason to think that won't continue.
THE CLUB VIEW
Talks have been held with a number of young players, not just Maja, and the club believe they've offered good terms.
Of course, there is also the need to protect the club financially and the worst case scenario would be to lose the striker on a free.
That is something Charlie Methven alluded to last month.
"We’re absolutely committed to keeping them," he said.
"Ultimately, of course, if a player out of contract isn’t going to sign one, then we have to click into a different mode which is protecting our financial position. But the current mode is we want to keep them, we absolutely want to keep them."
Should Maja leave on a free then Sunderland will be compensated by a tribunal, but retrieving full value that way is unlikely.
His remarkable first team performances would be balanced against his still comparatively short spell at the club.
So yes, if there are no signs of a new deal being agreed and a big offer arrives in January, Sunderland would be in a difficult position.
For now, however, the situation is far from critical and all parties will hope that patience proves to be a virtue.
Everyone knows they are onto a good thing.