Chris Coleman impressed by fit-again Josh Maja as he vows to focus on players who ‘want to be at Sunderland’

Josh Maja puts Sunderland in front from the penalty spot against Hartlepool United in pre-season. Picture by Frank Reid.
Josh Maja puts Sunderland in front from the penalty spot against Hartlepool United in pre-season. Picture by Frank Reid.
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Sunderland prodigy Josh Maja is nearing a return to full fitness, and new manager Chris Coleman admits he has been impressed by what he has seen of the 18-year-old so far.

Maja established himself as one of the strongest first-team prospects during a stellar season in the academy set-up last year, and he carried that form into pre-season.

The former Manchester City youngster was a regular on the scoresheet before picking up a knee injury during a 3-2 friendly win over League One club Bradford City, and has not featured since.

His first comeback in the U23 side last month was followed by a slight setback, but he completed 45 minutes against Leicester City U23’s on Monday.

Coleman said: “He’s good. He trained with us (yesterday) and had 45 minutes with the Under-23s on Monday.

“He’s a good goalscorer and he’s impressed me with what I’ve seen so far.

“It’s a bit early for us in terms of his fitness, but, yeah, he looks OK, that boy.

“At that age, they can look good with their age group, but then, when they come up against the men, as it were, they’re not as comfortable with that environment.

“But, from what I’ve seen of him, he’s not put off by that at all.”

Despite a growing injury list, Coleman will be able to call upon Paddy McNair and Lee Cattermole for the first time at Burton Albion in tomorrow afternoon’s crunch Championship clash.

Ex-Middlesbrough midfielder Cattermole has struggled to find his best form this season, but Coleman insists that he expects the 29-year-old to play a big part in Sunderland’s fight against back-to-back relegations.

“They’re good players,” Coleman said.

“Lee Cattermole plays all the time. He doesn’t miss unless he absolutely has to. He isn’t a worry to me.

“These are the type of players who are going to get us away from where we are.

“We can have a thousand different discussions about other players asking: ‘Are they doing this, are they doing that?’

“What we need to concentrate on are the ones who want to be here and want to try and get us out of where we are.

“If I see in my time here someone that I think is too big for this situation of where we are – bearing in mind they contributed to putting us in this situation – if they want to wash their hands with it now, they can go and play somewhere else for all I care because that attitude doesn’t get us away from where we are.

“Players who want to be here, work hard and be apart of it.

“I’ll give everything I’ve got to them. I’ll concentrate on them because those are the ones that will guide us away from where we are.”