Stephen Elliott: Chris Maguire still has a big role to play at Sunderland despite an uncertain future at Stadium of Light
We spoke about how important getting back to winning ways going into the play-offs would be vitally important for Sunderland.
After the last six games I was genuinely worried whether that would happen. Thankfully on Saturday against Plymouth, though, that victory arrived and pleasingly it came with a bit of style.
It was interesting that Lee Johnson’s starting line-up didn’t include, arguably, the two most important players of the season in Charlie Wyke and Aiden McGeady.
Johnson stated that both are carrying injuries which is obviously a slight worry given that there is not much time until the play-off games.
However, providing both players are fit for the play-off first leg, I feel the mental and physical rest will do them no harm.
I said a few weeks ago that giving some other lads game time and letting them find a bit of form would not have been the worst thing that happened and to be fair to the lads that came in on Saturday, they didn’t let themselves down.
I was really impressed with Ross Stewart. He looked fresh and was a real handful for the Plymouth defence. He surprised me with how swift he seemed to move across the surface for such a big guy too.
If Wyke is still struggling in a couple of weeks then Stewart will be a lot more game ready and the fact he scored will give him a lot of confidence. The manager will be delighted with his contribution.
Lynden Gooch showed on Saturday that he is much more suited to playing that inside role also.
He is a player that on his day he is one of the best at this level and he certainly was bang at it at Home Park.
He may not have scored but he was highly involved in most of Sunderland’s better attacks. Nobody will ever question his abilities but maybe he needs more consistency if we are to be slightly critical.
He is a big game player as we seen in the Papa John’s Trophy final and he will be needed over these next few weeks if Sunderland are to finally get out of this division.
We can talk about the future of the club, who will be giving new contracts and who won’t be, but for me these play-off games will require strong minded players no matter what their contract situation is.
With that in mind Chris Maguire has to be utilised.
He has showed in numerous games during his time here that he can still produce on the pitch when the pressure is on. It was clear on Saturday with his free-kick that struck the bar and his confidently struck penalty that he has not giving up the ghost.
Play-offs are not for the fainthearted and Lee Johnson will have to take this into account when deciding on his methods and personal when approaching these games.
Maguire has proven on many occasions that he rises to the challenge. And if he is to leave the club in the summer then I wouldn’t put it past him to leave a bit of a legacy by doing something memorable when it really matters.