Malcolm Dawson writes…..In the wake of Josh Maja’s departure, there are those of us who accept that he had the right to go, even if it has left us a bit thin in the goal scoring department, but if anything it represents a good deal for the club who might have seen him leave for next to nothing in the summer. Football is unlike most other spheres of work as the players are seen as assets with a monetary value. The Bosman ruling which allows players to move for nothing at the end of their contract or to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with another club and engineer a free transfer when there is less than six months of their current contract to go, means that clubs are now more keen to offer any player who may command a sizeable transfer fee a new deal, well before their current one runs out. If they aren’t prepared to sign then it makes financial sense to get what you can before that happens. How much was the club motivated by that I couldn’t say, but it must have played a huge part in what has transpired, after Maja’s performances this season brought his name into the limelight and to the attention of clubs with financial clout, looking to pick up a bargain.

What has perhaps been the most disappointing aspect was the player reportedly telling the manager he was planning to stay and then subsequently going back on his word. Personally, I try to think back to how I was at his age and can empathise with his behaviour. Ken Gambles has his own views on the whole affair and takes a different view.

Maja’s Leaving and the Agent Provocateur

I suppose there was a certain inevitability about Josh Maja’s departure and whilst I condemn the apparent abuse he’s been subject to on social media, I don’t subscribe to the view that it’s normal and all perfectly natural for anyone to better themselves by taking a higher -paid job. I understand the premise of this but surely we must admit that the ‘job’ of a professional sportsperson is radically different from the jobs the vast majority of us undertake in our lives.

Thousands of people don’t come to watch us at work, nor sing songs about us nor go wild when we’ve worked well that day. Nor of course do we get paid £10,000 pounds per week, nor anything remotely approaching that sum. Football is based on emotion and goes far beyond the merely transactional world of work most of us inhabit. Why should I make a round trip of 150 miles for every home game? Stand for 2 hours in a biblical downpour at Accrington or spend 13 hours journeying to Walsall and back? And I know many fans suffer even greater inconveniences.

Of course this doesn’t imply that Sunderland footballers have the same emotional attachment, but it does mean, to coin an idea of George Orwell’s, that we should expect ‘decency’.

We are not privy to the full details of negotiations between the club and Josh Maja but it does seem that he and his agent’s demands were met in full, that Jack Ross had been given Josh’s word that he was staying and that his eventual departure was so abrupt to be downright insulting. It is hard to believe that the agent is not much to blame for these events as of course no move means no extra pay-off for him but surely Josh Maja ought to have been man enough to make his own decisions and not hide behind those of someone else.

Jake: true colours?

People have commented that the game is populated by mercenaries and that duplicity is the world we live in. There is some truth in this yet the game also shows endless examples of decency that whilst furthering their own careers players have genuine respect and consideration for the supporters who have invested so much emotion in them. We can think of Charlie Hurley, Monty, Quinny, Kevin Ball, Jordan Henderson with the fans at the League Cup final against Manchester City, Danny Rose coming to watch us play even when he was back at Spurs etc, etc.

Supporters are not naïve enough to think that players have the same attachment to a club as they do, but I do think they have a right to be treated ‘decently’ Fresh in the memory is the behaviour of N’Dong, Dilibodji, Rodwell, Grabban and the rest of the shower that left us in the third tier. When they check their bank balances and polish their Ferraris in their posh houses whist curating their tattoos perhaps they won’t care less about what Sunderland supporters think of them, yet how much more human and warming it must be to feel that you are held in such warm affection by those you once played for, having responded to their support by treating them with respect and acting ‘decently.’

Indeed ‘what profiteth a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?’ I don’t wish Josh Maja ill for the rest of his career but nor do I wish him well as I think his behaviour has been unsavoury and disappointing.

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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

10 Responses to “Gambles Rambles: duplicity and a lack of decency in Maja’s departure” Subscribe

  1. Staffan Larsson January 29, 2019 at 4:27 pm #

    what makes the Maja decision almost impossible to understand is that he decides to join Bordeaux even though the manager openly confirmed that he sees Maja as an investment for the future! he will spend the rest of the season on the bench, maybe included in some cup-tie against teams from the french lower divisions and regretting leaving Sunderland while he struggles with the french alphabet. i´d find myself another agent if i were him, pretty sharpish!!!

  2. Neil January 29, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

    Personal motivations are always complex. Attitude rarely matches behaviour. Thatcher used to call herself a christian. Go figure. We need to move on. Bank the money. Clear the debt. Build for the future. I like the look of the lad from Celtic. Him down the left and Watmore down the right….promising…Hopefully tonight Luton and Portsmouth will both lose…i know i know….just watched a hour of the Brexit debate…rules are rules…. until they aren’t

  3. scotter January 29, 2019 at 5:37 pm #

    So the club provide the agent with wriggle room in delaying a new contract months ago. Give him or any agent such opportunity and they will exploit it because it brings them money in fees.

    How much this time 400k in Euros? Great for the agent but not so great for his client who would have been better served by staying even at the “low” salary on offer. Why?— because he is not the finished article (his heading is poor for one) and the value of ongoing 1st team experience would be the club’s investment in him. I doubt he’ll get that sort of attention in France; in fact I doubt the Manager knows anything about him from his press comments.

    I hope it all goes well for this young lad who has been badly advised and I think didn’t really want to leave. He’s not my villain in this piece.

  4. Neil January 29, 2019 at 6:15 pm #

    The club had been trying to tie it down for a considerable amount of time. Maja did not sign. We’re talking months. The agent knows Maja can go for virtually nothing in the Summer. Maja’s rise was rapid. The agent moved quickly. If Maja had been playing U23 football for the last 12 months he’d probably still be with us. Such is life.

  5. malcolm January 29, 2019 at 7:19 pm #

    Consider this hypothetical scenario. Charlie Wyke doesn’t get injured pre season. He forms a partnership with Jerome Sinclair and playing together the team get off to a good start. Maja gets a few minutes from the bench but hasn’t made any impact when he suffers an injury and by Christmas has only scored once.

    How loyal would the club have been as his contract ran down. How many critical supporters would be having a go at the club if they chose to send him out on loan then release him in the summer?

    OK that isn’t how it’s panned out but my point is had he not been thrown into the side because we were short of strikers, had he not been able to score on a regular basis there would be none of this criticism because he’s left the club.

    It only seems to be players who have been successful who get called for choosing to leave. He had a contract and could have let it run down then left for next to nothing. Jermain Defoe had a contract which allowed him to go for nothing when we got relegated. No one criticises him for doing so even though he wasn’t getting a game for Bournemouth.

    By engineering this move at least the club will get some return on the time they invested in his development, not to mention clearing the debt we owed for Wahbi Khazri.

    Of course the acid test of how good a piece of business this will prove to be is whether or not we go up in May.

  6. Brian January 30, 2019 at 4:57 am #

    Yet someone else trying to suggest that footballers be exempt from the normal rules in a community or society generally.
    Utter horseplop.
    Ok in that case a much loved soap opera character shouldnt move from the cast to a higher paid role elsewhere.
    Or hey a village schoolteacher shouldnt move to a bigger better paid private school role.
    Excuses could continue to be made for a range of professions and like maja and all would be as hollow as a politician’s promise.
    Maja is a young player in a a profession that can be bpth cruel and short. He owes safc and its fans nowt.
    All this weeping and wailing about his motives and his agent is pathetic.
    Fans insulting the bordeaux, the french league etc remind me of hissy fitting little kids who need to take a long hard look in the mirror.
    Facts are.
    Right now bordeaux and ligue1 are much much bigger than safc and div 1.
    He has at least doubled his wages for the next 4 years.
    He will be playing with and against much much better
    players.
    Everything else is spite and speculation.
    Get over it you miserable mean spirited crybabies

    • malcolm January 30, 2019 at 8:30 am #

      Brian you forgot to go through your comment and alter the spelling so it makes you appear illiterate when you obviously are not.

      Other than that I find myself agreeing with much of what you say for a second time in only a few days.

      Nurse!

    • CSB January 30, 2019 at 9:16 am #

      Only time will tell whether it was the correct move or not for Maja. The fact that he went meant he was not committed to the cause so adieu, we only want 100%s at the Club.

      We will miss his future potential goal tally but others will have to step up and I have no doubt they will. Maja was certainly not the finished product (poor in the air and didn’t appear to relish the battle) but was only young so had plenty time.

      The time element is probably what irritates the most, it wasn’t like he had to go and was running out of time in his career. But still that was his/agents choice and he is entitled to it. We go on and Maja becomes a brief footnote in the history of the Club when he could have been so much more, we’ll never know now.

    • Neil January 30, 2019 at 11:30 pm #

      But you must be chuffed after beating City 2-1..what a result for your lot.

  7. Neil January 31, 2019 at 10:08 am #

    Last comment FAO Brian…once a Mag always a Mag

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