Where Sunderland stand with Will Grigg, Josh Maja & the other key January issues

Sunderland head into the second half of the January window having added Burnley defender Jimmy Dunne to their squad.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 10:46 am
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 4:38 am
Josh Maja has scored 15 goals this season

There have been no outgoings as of yet but it could still end up being a busy month.

Chairman Stewart Donald gave fans an update on twitter last night, saying: "We are working very hard to do the right deals.

Josh Maja has scored 15 goals this season

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"I know everyone wants everything sorted asap but we need the detail right.

"We know we need to strengthen - we have sensible & serious offers out in the market. We will definitely be backing Jack - just need a little time."

So where do Sunderland stand with the key issues?

We take a closer look....

What's the latest on Will Grigg?

Sunderland increased their offer earlier this week but Wigan Athletic are seemingly holding out for more.

The Black Cats clearly believe there is a deal to be struck for the 27-year-old and remain keen.

On what terms that should be done is the question.

Jack Ross is keen for a more orthodox striking option and when you're looking for promotion from League One, there is no one better than Grigg.

He has done it four times and been prolific for both MK Dons and Wigan.

In an attacking team pushing for automatic promotion at this level, bringing him in is a no-brainer.

Particularly when you have delivery from the wide areas from players with the talent of Aidan McGeady, Adam Matthews, Lynden Gooch and the like.

Doing it in the Championship has proved to be a struggle for the Northern Ireland international and so any valuation of what a fair price would be depends on to what extent you believe Grigg could make the jump with Sunderland better next season, should they win promotion.

With any signing, there is also the decision to be made on at what price you potentially leave yourself with little sell-on value.

Grigg has long been on the radar, which would suggest he is a seen as a player who they believe can rise through the divisions and improve, as is the recruitment model.

At some stage, they will also more than likely consider other targets.

For now, however, talks continue and that early bids have not been successful shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

For Sunderland and Wigan, it would be a very significant deal.

That means difficult negotiations are a certainty.

One unrelated issue is the return of Devante Cole to Wigan from a loan spell at Burton Albion.

That led some to wonder if Grigg's departure was imminent, but Cole's return is thought purely to be down to a lack of gametime at the Pirelli Stadium.

What about Josh Maja?

Josh Maja returned to training on Tuesday after missing the draw with Luton Town due a stomach bug.

His future remains as unclear now as it has done all month.

Certainly, Sunderland are still to receive any indication that he will sign the deal on the table.

As such, they will plan for his departure in the summer and by default that means considering long-term replacements.

For now, he will stay in the first team picture with Jack Ross regularly praising his application and ability to perform despite the ongoing speculation.

Against both Blackpool and Charlton he played superbly and was a constant threat.

A January exit remains a possibility, even if there are yet to be any concrete bids halfway through the window.

Crystal Palace's reported interest is genuine and there are Championship teams keen too.

The question for them is whether their assessment of where Maja is currently at matches the player's and his representative's.

Put simply, whether he is ready for first team involvement immediately or whether they see him as a long-term project.

The answer to that would have significant implications for the finances they would be willing to commit to a deal, and also whether they would offer a price that Sunderland would deem acceptable to do business at a pivotal point in their promotion push.

There is no doubt that running down his contract and moving abroad would be a lucrative option. English talent has never been more sought after and there is interest.

Maja himself, however, is yet to be convinced that this is the best option for him.

A lack of clarity may be frustrating but the reality is that all options remain in play for the 20-year-old at this stage.

What happens if Maja goes?

Should Maja go this month then Sunderland will go back into the market, on top of their unrelated pursuit for a new striker.

How they would approach that is an interesting question.

Maja is a unique player in the sense that his finishing abilities are outstanding, but his all-round contribution is often better when he is deployed a little deeper off a centre forward.

So replacing him would not be easy.

These are the discussions that will be taking place in recruitment planning and perhaps the best bet would be to add a similarly versatile forward, and hope that the loss of his goals could be offset by the arrival of the new striker (and in that context Will Grigg makes even more sense).

Ross will still hold out hope that it doesn't come to that, at least not this month.

Any other business?

Donald says Sunderland have 'serious and sensible offers' out in the market.

Both Donald and Executive Director Charlie Methven have said that Jack Ross will be backed with whatever he thinks he needs, so further additions cannot be ruled out.

Crucial, too, will be whether there are any outgoings.

As of yet there has been no significant movement but Ross admitted last week that it could be a possibility.

"[Nothing] imminent," he said.

"I’m not in any rush to trim my squad.

"We feel as if we’re OK, we’ve performed OK over the first half of the season.

"If anything, it’s just finding one of those two players that we’ve mentioned to strengthen it.

"However, like anything, once you pad out your squad and increase your numbers in certain positions then naturally, players may feel as if they’re further down the pecking order and that may change their opinion of being at the club.

"That’s something you have to deal with as the month unfolds."

Donald has said that there is no need to sell players this month, but there is always a chance that a pragmatic decision could be make, particularly if it is a higher earner who is not central to the manager's plans.