How a new role put Chris Maguire back at the heart of Sunderland's promotion push

When it comes to Chris Maguire and Sunderland there is one quote that always sticks in the memory.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:45 pm

Maguire had come off the bench to rescue a point against Accrington Stanley and unsurprisingly, it was one of the first questions put to Jack Ross in his post-match press conference.

"When Chrissy plays like that he will always be in my team," Ross said.

In this statement there were two truths.

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One, that consistency and Maguire are two words that have not always gone together. Two, that his ability to rise to the occasion and turn a game in Sunderland's favour can never be questioned.

Just weeks after it looked as if his Black Cats career was drifting to an unsatisfactory conclusion, he is proving it all over again.

Lee Johnson was struggling to find a place for Maguire in his early squads and just before deadline day, he offered a blunt and brief 'I don't know' when asked if the attacking midfielder could leave.

It was well known that Johnson wanted to reduce the numbers in attacking areas but as it transpired, a loan move for Elliot Embleton handed Maguire a lifeline.

Chris Maguire has made a vital contribution off the bench in Sunderland's last two games

His response since then has been exemplary.

The 32-year-old will no doubt be frustrated that his role for now is an an impact substitute, but Johnson's willingness to make early and significant changes to his set up in games makes it a genuinely important one.

Maguire is proving to be increasingly vital because of his versatility.

If Johnson wants to bring a more creative player into central midfield, Maguire can do that.

If he needs fresh legs out wide, Maguire is comfortable there. If he needs a player comfortable playing just off the centre forward, Maguire can do that too.

The foundation for his recent contributions have been that every time he has been asked to come on (in some cases with just minutes to play and chances of glory remote), his application and pressing have been exactly where they need to be.

With that in place, the platform is set for the individual quality that few at this level can match.

At Crewe it was not just the quite stunning strike that rescued a point. It was also the three perfectly delivered set pieces that each deserved a finish.

On Tuesday he did it again, and this time Sunderland were able to get Charlie Wyke on the end of it.

As the game broke open Maguire was influential, and Johnson's only frustration was that he did play his part in killing the game off for good. With moments to play, he opted to shoot when the better option would have been to tee up Jack Diamond.

The move, though, summed up he is such a threat in those latter stages when the chance to counter-attack grows.

Given the fixture schedule ahead, Maguire is giving himself a chance of the starting berth he will undoubtedly crave.

For now, though, his comeback in this supersub role has gone some way to ensuring Sunderland's automatic promotion push has stayed on track despite a brutal injury list.

It looked unlikely barely a month ago, but this popular forward has proved that Ross quote to be as relevant as ever.

This story has another chapter or two to run yet.

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