He’s the current star of Sunderland’s bid for an instant return to the Championship, and his scoring record has sparked memories of a hero of the Black Cats’ last promotion from the third tier.
But when you place the Josh Maja of 2018-19 next to Marco (Goalo) Gabbiadini of 1987-88, how does the teenager really compare?
The short answer is very well . . . at least, so far.
It was around six weeks into Sunderland’s only previous season in the old Third Division when manager Denis Smith raided former club York City to bring Gabbiadini to Wearside.
By the following May, with Gabbiadini having scored 21 goals, Sunderland winning 93 points from 46 games and promotion firmly in the bag, his £80,000 fee looked like one of the steals of
Better still was to follow, with Marco’s “G-Force” partnership with Eric Gates firing the Black Cats into the old Division One two seasons later – via an unforgettable promotion play-off semi-
final victory over bitter rivals Newcastle and financial irregularities at Swindon Town.
But, although it is early days, Maja is on course to match – or even eclipse – Gabbiadini’s first-season heroics under Smith.
In Sunderland’s 12 League One games so far, Maja has scored nine goals, just as Gabbiadini did in his first dozen Black Cats appearances.
But if he maintains that strike-rate across the season, that will give the London teenager a ratio of one goal per 108 minutes, compared with Gabbiadini’s goal every 143 minutes in 87-88.
And that is with Maja being arguably under more pressure to deliver than Gabbiadini was.
Between them, Gabbiadini, Gates and penalty taker John MacPhail netted 56 Third Division goals in the old Third Division, while no Sunderland player other than Maja has more than
three League One goals this season.
Together, Lynden Gooch, Lee Cattermole and Chris Maguire have only produced as many goals as Maja alone.
Gabbiadini went on to be sold for £1.8m – but only after more than four years leading Sunderland’s line.
Will Maja be a Black Cat for as long?