Josh Maja seems more or less blameless in the series of events that led to today’s astonishing development.
If Sunderland AFC is telling the truth, Maja told Jack Ross yesterday he wanted to stay and would today sign a generous new contract (did someone say at seven times his current salary, precisely as demanded by his agent?). Instead his agent told not SAFC, but Sky, he would not be signing.
We must avoid getting on high horses about the player himself. He is paid to play football, not to be a supporter of the club he plays for.
His career will be short. He has as much right to look for the best deal he can get as any IT technician, plumber, accountant or member of any other trade or profession.
There is virtually no tradition of loyalty in football, except that given by supporters to their clubs. A player should not be expected to show what is not shown to players, to or by managers, to or by boards of directors.
But if it comes down to normal, decent human conduct, we are entitled to ask whether the agents – who list Maja’s value at 225K, somewhat less than if he had a longer present contract – accept the owner, Stewart Donald, was accurate with this tweet:
‘I would have kept Josh news in-house but once his agent informed Sky & they report it that he doesn’t want to sign we have to repsond.He wants to sign it this agent that has said don’t!!! Stay behind him and don’t get up his back – we will try & change his mind.’
‘Josh Maja update. Yesterday Josh asked to see Jack to say he will sign. Today I got a call from Sky TV saying he won’t sign.
Josh advised his agent has said don’t sign but no courtesy to tell the club – Also we offered what the agent indicated!!! Busy January ahead.’
Even by the low standards of football agents, this suggests conduct of an appalling nature. Off the cuff, we can think of three signs of poor behaviour: discourtesy, arrogance and manipulation.
But there must surely be another side to the story. Josh changed his mind without the least encouragement. The agents tried for hours to contact the Stadium of Light to make sure the owner knew before Sky viewers, but couldn’t get through. Celtic or Huddersfield have offered Josh a guaranteed starting place for the rest of the season. Someone just forgot something. Think of your own explanation – Salut! Sunderland simply repeats what has been said elsewhere and its pages are open to the agent for any clarification considered necessary.
A media friend tells me the idea that all agents are sharks is silly. The club set the deadline, not Maja or his agent. I await with interest what the agents have to say – and have searched the usual sources online without success – given that the club’s view is so damning.