Sunderland AFC January transfer window Q&A: Verdict on Josh Maja saga, Will Grigg pursuit and what Grant Leadbitter will add

Promotion-chasing Sunderland face a busy end to the January transfer window with Jack Ross looking to bolster his attacking options.

Saturday, 26th January 2019, 10:29 am
Updated Saturday, 26th January 2019, 10:38 am
Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

Our team of SAFC writers, Phil Smith and Richard Mennear, were joined by Nick Barnes, Sunderland AFC commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle, for a live Q&A with supporters.

January plans, the ongoing pursuit of Wigan Athletic striker Will Grigg, Grant Leadbitter’s Wearside return plus Josh Maja’s exit were all under the microscope.

Former Sunderland striker Josh Maja.

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Here are some of the highlights.

On Josh Maja’s Sunderland exit?

Barnes said: "The Josh Maja saga rolled on and it had become a saga, a bit of a mess really, the way it has all panned out.

“Arriving at a point where there was no room for manoeuvre, that was a shame because if they could have engineered a deal where he was going to be here until at least the end of the season, would have benefited everybody.

“Whether his heart would have been in it would have been the big question? Managers and players would argue they are professional and are there to do a job, if he had stayed, once the furore had died down and he was back scoring goals then you slip back into the routine.

“It is a shame, the way and manner it has dragged out.”

Smith said: “It depends if he is going to play there - it is a nonsensical move if he is going to go there and not play for the next 6 months, he would have been better off staying at Sunderland.

“But if he is to play then it is an incredible move, it is not very often a player moves from League One to Ligue 1 and it goes to show how football has changed in a short space of time.

“We all understand now there is a market for it and Maja’s representatives have tapped into that and secured a lucrative and very good move but it is only good if he goes there and plays.

“It became clear on Monday that Josh Maja had told the club he intended to move abroad. It was then about selling him. The sell-on clause is a big thing for Sunderland going forward.”

On Sunderland’s pursuit of Will Grigg?

Barnes said: “If you’re the selling club, you are going to try and justify the figure that you are selling a player for.

“You don’t want to sell yourself or the supporters of Wigan short, they have a duty to get the best price for a player.

“In the current market, if the figure of £1million being touted about is right then I wouldn’t quibble over that figure at this level.”

Smith said: “It’s obvious there is a deal to be done as he is not playing. The noise from the Wigan end is that they want to keep him but he hasn’t been playing so he is available for the right price, same goes for anyone not a regular in the first team.

“Sunderland’s issue is that everyone knows they need a striker and have let Josh Maja go. It is natural that there would be a drawn out process.

“Grigg is injured for the next couple of weeks anyway but the sooner it gets wrapped up the better.

“It is a negotiation process, it is clear that Grigg is available for the right price.”

On Sunderland’s January transfer plans?

Barnes: “You would hope they would get Will Grigg and A.N.Other in before the window and if that is the case then the window takes on a different perspective.

“Dunne and two strikers, it would be a good window.

“Dunne coming in is good business, he looks accomplished, big and strong, tall and is commanding and has a presence in the back four.”

Any truth to rumours linking Sunderland with Barnsley striker Kieffer Moore?

Smith said: “Sunderland went into this window knowing they needed a striker, possibly two.

“A shortlist was drawn up of potential targets, Moore, as you would expect was one of those, given how good he is, we all saw that in the Barnsley game.

“Sunderland had a very, very tentative enquiry about what kind of price he would be available, if he was available, the fee touted was very high and if he was available I can guarantee you there would be significant interest from the top of the Championship.

“It seems very unlikely but they did ask about him.”

On Grant Leadbitter’s return to Wearside?

Barnes said: “If you are looking to win promotion then it is great to get another body in with Grant Leadbitter’s experience; he is a very accomplished Championship player, loves the club.

“It came out the blue as Jack Ross has been saying for weeks he was happy with his midfield options but Leadbitter is available and willing to come, so why not?”

Smith said: “I would argue that Grant has become a creative midfielder, twice last season against Sunderland he was brilliant and the best creative outlet on the pitch, he is a better creative player than people give him credit for.

“Taking the emotional side out of it, if one of Sunderland’s promotion rivals signed a player of his quality, would we be saying ‘that is a big deal?’ I think we would.

“Also, having someone who understands what it is like to play for Sunderland in a tense season, will handle the pressure of big games and crowds, it is a good thing.

“If you get an opportunity to improve your squad then you have to do it. He would automatically become Sunderland’s best midfielder, I think.”