Chris Maguire has firm message on Sunderland future as he speaks candidly about improved form and fitness
Chris Maguire says he is determined to prove to Sunderland that he can have a future at the club beyond the current campaign.
The 31-year-old had a mixed start to the campaign, scoring an outstanding hat-trick against AFC Wimbledon but suffering plenty of frustrating afternoons along the way.
He has since established himself as a vital part of Phil Parkinson’s resurgent side, an integral figure in a regular XI that has gone unbeaten in eight League One games and fired their way back into promotion contention.
He is comfortably the club’s most productive player, leading the charts for both goals and assists.
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Above all else, he has benefited from a significant improvement in his fitness levels, and admits that the manager’s influence has been key in pushing him back towards his best form.
In a candid interview with the Red & White programme ahead of the 0-0 draw with Doncaster Rovers, he said: “I have been hard on myself over the last few weeks and months when it hasn’t been good enough.
“I started the season well and then things kind of fell away. As players you always want to play week in, week out and play 90 minutes. I know there are times when you have to come off, but I think before the start of the season I was getting taken off early and that was annoying.
“I had to go away and work hard to get myself right,” he added.
“I knew I had to get myself fitter and I know there have been certain pictures of me online that make me look a little fat, but that’s certainly not the case.
“I had a word with the manager when he came in and he said that I could get fitter and that it would benefit me and the team.
“I have put a lot of work in after training on my own to get fitter and sharper, and at the moment it is paying off – hopefully it can continue.”
Maguire is one of a number of players out of contract at the end of the current campaign.
No decisions are likely to be made while Chairman Stewart Donald holds talks over the potential sale of the club, while how the rest of the season plays out is likely to be key.
Maguire, though, is clear that he does not want to play his football anywhere else, and it is up to him to prove it.
“Last season I had an injury which put me out for a little bit, but there were times when we got to 50-60 minutes and if things weren’t happening, you’d look up and I’d be the first sub off – that was obviously frustrating,” he said.
“I am out of contract in the summer and at the moment I am playing for my future. I want to stay here for as long as I can, so it is up to me to prove to people I deserve the right to be here.
“This is a great club and I have enjoyed every moment that I have been here. For me, I have got to work hard to get to where I want to be.
“It's up to me, no one else can do it, but it’s nice to have the backing of the manager. He has questioned parts of my game and I have had a think about those and knuckled down to show that I can still learn at this age.”
Maguire’s form has been key part of Sunderland’s timely increase in attacking threat, forming an effective front three with Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke.
Parkinson has been full of praise for the attacking midfielder, but has also said there won’t be ‘too many pats on the back’ as he hits the form he is capable of.
Speaking after the emphatic win over Wycombe Wanderers, a game in which Maguire scored twice, the Black Cats boss was clear in putting his improvements down to improved conditioning.
“Chris’ ability does not change from one week to the next,” said Parkinson.
““He’s got great ability, but like I’ve said in recent weeks, he’s starting to get fitter and that’s why he’s been able to play at a consistent level, it’s as simple as that.
“He’s a good player, he’s got good quality, good end product, but I think you can see from the stands that he was on a different level.
“I do feel this is only just the start of it, there’s more to come from him.”