Sunderland legend Niall Quinn has issued his verdict on the Black Cats sale of striker Josh Maja last January.
The 21-year-old joined Bordeaux in the 2018/19 winter transfer windo – a move that would have disastrous consequences for Sunderland’s promotion hopes.
Maja was the Black Cats’ top scorer at the time, having bagged 16 goals in 30 games, and the North East club would go onto lose in the play-off final without him.
Their replacement, Will Grigg, managed just five goals in his 22 appearances that term.
Having arrived from Manchester City in 2015, Maja came through the academy system at Sunderland and began to get a chance in the 2017/18 campaign.
The striker made 22 appearances that season, mostly from the bench, and scored just one goal but terrorised sides in League One the following season.
His exit remains a sore one of the North East club, not least because it featured prominently in the most recent series of the documentary ‘Sunderland Til I Die’.
Quinn was chairman of the Black Cats when Henderson was sold to Liverpool in 2011 and, speaking to The Athletic, sympathised with the ownership over the sale of Maja, among other things.
He said: “The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life is try to run a football club. I know how difficult it is. I’m willing to forgive what others mightn’t.
“Sunderland is indelible in people’s lives. It’s difficult to get it right, to continuously get the messaging right.
“There’s no point in me saying I’d have done things differently, it’s just so consuming. It can’t have been easy in there in the last year, the job losses, cutbacks, selling Josh Maja. That would have been like us selling Jordan Henderson before he had developed. It’s just difficult.”
Maja may be set for a return to English football as it has been reported that Crystal Palace and West Ham United are interested in signing the 21-year-old for £10 million.
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Maja’s exit is a particularly frustrating one for fans of the Black Cats in no smart because of what followed last season.
It is interesting to hear Quinn’s verdict as he is uniquely positioned having been a player and the chairman of Sunderland.
You feel promotion to the Championship this season would help everyone involved in the club to forget about that saga.