Sunderland boss Lee Johnson gives honest view on Chris Maguire's position, their January conversations and what happens next

Lee Johnson insists that Chris Maguire still has a part to play for Sunderland this season, and that there has been no rift between the two behind the scenes.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 4:19 pm

However, the head coach confirmed that he had given Maguire the opportunity to leave the club in the January window, and says he has been 'unbelievably honest' with the 32-year-old about his place in the squad.

Maguire has at times been an effective substitute in Johnson's squad, and was also handed a starting berth for the Papa John's Trophy final against Tranmere Rovers.

The attacking midfielder has not been part of the last two matchday squads, leading to frustration for some supporters after two defeats.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Chris Maguire turned down the chance to leave Sunderland in January

Maguire is travelling with the squad to Blackpool, and appears likely to be named in the 18.

"There's no frustrations with him or anything like that," Johhnson said.

"We know his quality and what he can bring us.

"First and foremost, there's a lot of competition and fans have a right to their opinions and to air them.

"If it wasn't Chrissy, it might be Aiden McGeady, if it wasn't McGeady it might be Jack Diamond, if it wasn't Diamond it might be Jordan Jones, if you get what I mean. If he was a centre-half, there's no doubt he would have been playing.

"Eventually decisions have to be made and you stand and fall by those.

"We've been really honest with Chris and that started going into the January window, where we allowed him to seek ventures new if it was something that worked for him.

"He's out of contract at the end of the year, he's 32 and we couldn't guarantee the kind of deal that he wanted. Not closing the door on it, but being honest and saying, 'look this is your career and we've got Elliot Embleton, Aiden McGeady, Jack Diamond, Jordan Jones'.

"We had a lot of forward players and I know from my playing career, at that age you want to play.

"To be fair to Chrissy he turned down two decent clubs and don't forget, at this time there was a takeover and things were changing all the time. He decided he wanted to stay, hence why Elliot Embleton went out on loan.

"That stability as a squad is really important and it's something I think we've probably suffered with over the last couple of games, to be honest," Johnson added.

"I know that sounds madness but you can be better off when the team sort of picks itself, and players don't have that anxiety where they almost chase a performance knowing there's a good player hot on their heels.

"So all of this comes into consideration and that's why we've been so honest with him.

"It's the easiest thing in the world for me to blag a player through to the end of the season and then say, 'sorry pal' with a pat on the back. But that's morally wrong and to create an environment where we're successful, you need a pathway for youngsters and honesty for the senior players.

"Chris knows exactly where he stands."

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Sunderland AFC coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor