Lee Johnson reacts to Chris Maguire's superb Sunderland cameo and has this clear message for forward

Lee Johnson hailed Chris Maguire for fighting his way back into the matchday setup after his superb contribution at Plymouth Argyle.

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 6:00 am

Maguire's penalty put the Black Cats back in the lead at Home Park as they secured a play-off spot with a 3-1 win.

The attacking midfielder had struck the bar with a free kick with his first touch after coming off the bench.

Maguire's gametime has been limited of late but Johnson insists he has a part to play.

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Chris Maguire puts Sunderland 2-1 ahead at Home Park
Chris Maguire puts Sunderland 2-1 ahead at Home Park

Speaking last month, the Head Coach confirmed that he had given the 32-year-old the opportunity to leave the club in January, with his contract running down and the kind of deal Maguire might want next unlikely.

Maguire has suffered from Jack Diamond's rise as a first-team player but Johnson said Saturday was an example of the role he can play.

"There's definitely never been any issues between us personally," Johnson said.

"I've been public in saying that we made that call [that he could leave in January] early and we did that for Chris, to be honest.

"Sometimes that's something that can be thrown at you as well, that you've been too nice in giving him the option.

"But we had to knowing that we couldn't 100% give him any guarantees.

"It's the livelihood of players and their families on the line at the end of the day and so you've got to be honest with players.

"To be fair, he has shown a proper attitude in the way he has trained," Johnson added.

"He might think we don't fancy him as a player but that is absolutely not true, not true.

"It's just the progression and the path that the club needs to go in.

"At the same time, he's got a great touch, great finisher, he's clever and can calm the play down.

"He showed today that attitude to play on the turn and that's something that I want more of from a player of his quality.

"I enjoyed a lot of the performances from our players today because it wasn't the easiest game to cope with. Of course were able to fly to the game and that's credit to the board for allowing that, as well."

Maguire's return was in part due to injuries to Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke, who both missed out on a place in the matchday squad.

Sunderland nevertheless were a threat throughout the game, and arguably should have scored more than they did.

Though eager to get his two most productive attacking players back for the play-off campaign, Johnson did think the number of players keen to prove a point ultimately served the team well.

"I think the changes freshened us up a bit," he said.

"Jack did really well, Chris did really well when he came on, JJ had been frustrated because he had scored a goal and was then left out, Goochy had the bit between his teeth playing as a number ten, Ross wants to play every game and show the fans what he can do.

"There was a lot of motivation out there today - and that's no slight on McGeady and Wyke, we're a squad and we want everyone to do well."

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