League One side Sunderland played a vital role in the development of Josh Maja before he moved to France and the youngster has acknowledged the admiration and support of the former England international
Nigeria international Josh Maja has disclosed that he was able to take his game to the next level by training together with the Sunderland senior team.
Born in the London Borough of Lewisham to Nigerian parents, Maja featured for the youth teams of Crystal Palace, Fulham, and Manchester City.
But it was Sunderland, convinced of his goal-scoring abilities, who gave the youngster his first professional contract. Maja signed a three-year deal in the summer of 2016.
The Super Eagles star quickly adapted to senior level football, making 49 appearances and scoring 17 goals for the Black Cats.
But with his contract due to expire at the end of the season last year, Maja refused to sign a contract extension. And in January 2019, he joined French Ligue 1 club, Bordeaux, on a four and a half year deal.
One of the senior members of that Sunderland side was Englishman Jermain Defoe, with the former Tottenham striker impressed by the qualities of Maja.
Despite leaving the English side in controversial circumstances, Maja still speaks fondly of his time at Sunderland while revealing the encouragement he received from Defoe.
“I learned a lot at Sunderland, and what I was capable of to do and accomplish there was good,” Maja said in an interview as per Ginrondins33.
“I was able to win my place in team one, in training and then in matches, over a short period of a few months, to have the confidence of coaches by improving my game, because I played with better, stronger players.
“Among the players of the senior team, I think Jermain Defoe was one of my greatest admirers because he liked that I was good at finishing.
“He loved me very much, and he gave me advice and advice to better finish and deceive the guards and the defenders.
“It was a good time for me; I really enjoyed being able to learn and have experience.”