Tony Gillan: Sunderland can't rely on stunning goals every week with the Black Cats in need of a natural goalscorer

Saturday’s victory at Milton Keynes was not easily attained. It could have been, had there been a natural goalscorer in the team.

Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 11:38 am
Josh Maja in his Sunderland playing days.

Charlie Wyke had a decent chance, while Alim Öztürk’s attempts to convert two more than decent chances, indeed sitters, showed why he plays in defence.

Victory required a spectacular strike from Lynden Gooch. While the goal was both praiseworthy and welcome, Sunderland can’t rely on such efforts in every game. They need a striker who will regularly bang in “ordinary” goals.

Loosely speaking, Sunderland have had two types of prolific scorers down the years. There have been first-rate forwards who scored all manner of goals: Kevin Phillips, Jermain Defoe.

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Then there is the “lethal from six yards” type: Lewis Grabban, Darren Bent, Pop Robson if you’re old enough, Brian Clough if you’re even older – and Josh Maja.

It’s a year since Maja played for Sunderland; scoring in a 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe on January 19, 2019. He’s been conspicuous by his absence ever since.

His departure is rued. I’m all for a bit of ruing. What I have difficulty with is the surplus of wisdom after the event – much of it somewhat questionable.

“They shouldn’t have sold him” is a mantra which overlooks the fact that the player wanted to leave.

He recently claimed otherwise: a claim contradicted by the simple fact that he signed for another club, which no one forced him to do. The notion of his ghastly agent (don’t know his name, but he’s an agent so the adjective applies) “making” him leave just doesn’t convince.

How much was the agent asking? Quite possibly more Sunderland had. So the player wanted away. Don’t take it personally.

Footballers. You are adults. Your agent is not your keeper. He isn’t even your boss. It’s the other way round if anything. If you must be so gullible as to believe you even need an agent at all, then at least remember that.

As for SAFC, couldn’t they have made a better deal with Bordeaux? Maybe, but Maja’s contract was about to end, and they could well have lost him for zilch.

We can all agree that Maja’s intended replacement, Will Grigg, has been an overpriced flop. But again, wisdom after the event. There was no evidence beforehand that Grigg would be such a disaster. His League One scoring record was very good.

But even if Maja had stayed for the rest of 2018-19 then left for free, it would have been worth it, because his goals would have seen Sunderland promoted.

Wouldn’t they?

Aside of the perennial risk that he might have broken his leg in his next game, Sunderland scored an average of 1.78 goals per game last season before he left.

But after he slung his hook it was still 1.68. This equates to just one additional goal every 10 games with Maja at the club.

The goals were spread wider among the squad post-Maja, who, it should be remembered, left duties other than scoring to everyone else.

For what it’s worth, I still think Sunderland would have benefited had he stayed. He would probably have produced goals at vital moments. But I don’t know that for certain.

So let’s hear no more of Josh Maja.

How’s he getting on in France? Who cares?