Are Joel Asoro and Josh Maja ready for first team football at Sunderland? Simon Grayson has his say

Joel Asoro
Joel Asoro
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Sunderland boss Simon Grayson says Joel Asoro and Josh Maja are in contention to be part of the squad to take on Derby County - but admits they are physically not quite ready for regular Championship football.

Gary Rowett’s Rams visit for the opening night of the league season in just over a fortnight, with Grayson still searching the transfer market for attacking options.

James Vaughan remains his only senior recognised striker, with the two starlets taking their opportunity to impress in pre-season.

Maja in particular has shone and while Grayson has been impressed, he urged an element of caution as the teenagers continue to develop physically.

He said: “Are they strong enough physically? Probably not.

“What they do have is the movement, they’ve got the willingness to run and they’ve got the pace.

“Are they going to play every game of the season? Probably not, because if we’re bringing other players in that I’d like to then they’ll be there to compete in and out games throughout the season.

“I’m pleased with what they’re doing at this moment in time and we’ll see how the team develops over the next few weeks.”

The pair have also offered Grayson much-needed flexibility as he seeks to get his senior players up to match fitness.

Asoro has largely played on the right wing, while Maja has lead the line, as a number ten and as a left winger.

With Sunderland short on attacking options and with more established players likely to leave, that increases their chances of becoming squad players next season.

Grayson said: “Both him and Joel have done ever so well, they’ve got the youthful exuberance which makes them run around, they’ve got the quality on the ball and they’re versatile as well.

“They spend some time down the middle and sometimes I switch them to go out wide, it just gives us that flexibility.

“I’ve been impressed with them, they’ve both got work to do but they’re making a statement to everyone that they want to be considered for the first game of the season.”