One of the first players on the team sheet under Jack Ross and Phil Parkinson earned him the title of “The King” from supporters. However, since the arrival of Lee Johnson, Chris Maguire has had to settle for a place among the substitutes for the majority of his time in charge. There’s little doubt that Maguire has talent, and coupled with a desire to prove he still deserves a place at Sunderland, he could prove to be Sunderland’s ace card in this season’s play-offs.
Sunderland’s Ace Card in the Play-offs Could be Chris Maguire
Black Cats Struggled to Break Down Lincoln City
Sunderland travelled to Lincoln City on Wednesday evening for the first leg of their play-off semi-final. Lee Johnson’s men struggled to break down a stubborn City defence for large parts of the game. Ideas were few and far between and the Black Cats endured a tough time eventually losing 2-0.
It has given the team an uphill battle to progress, and although they are not out of the tie, something else is needed if Sunderland are to prolong their season and reach Wembley. Step forward, Chris Maguire.
Playing for His Future
Like several others in the squad, Chris Maguire is out of contract this summer. With the club uncertain which division they will be in next season, contract talks have been put on hold for many. Sunderland will not want to lose some of these players; however, forward Maguire is definitely playing for his future, either on Wearside or elsewhere.
In January, Lee Johnson advised Maguire that he could leave if he wished so he can get first-team football, something which Johnson could not guarantee him. The 32-year-old declined and has worked hard to stay in and around the first-team squad.
When called up, Maguire has come up with the goods, scoring some important goals when coming off the bench. Should he get his chance, the Scot has the talent to turn a game with a moment of magic, which is exactly what Sunderland need to progress to Wembley.
Big Game Player and Fan Favourite
Chris Maguire is a player who enjoys the big games in front of big crowds. Saturday brings Sunderland’s biggest game of the season and fans will be returning. If any player needs the fans on his side, it is fans’ favourite Maguire. 10,000 fans are expected to make the noise that a full house would normally bring, and that is something he will feed off
Head coach Lee Johnson also believes that Maguire is a big game player. Speaking to safc.com ahead of the crucial game at home to the Imps, the Sunderland boss said: “We know how Chrissy can perform in these big games – he started the Papa John’s Trophy final – and he’s in the squad for a reason.
“We’re always trying to get that balance of fitness, match sharpness and handling the occasion, and we know Chrissy fits that. He has that big-game way.”
Fans have seen over the past three seasons that he can produce moments of magic at key times, be it via a spectacular goal or a well-executed assist. A player who is calm under pressure, the forward can produce when it matters most, and Maguire can produce where others may fail. Whether the former Derby County man starts or is used as an impact substitute, he could be the difference between a Wembley final and another guaranteed season in League One.
No Rift Between Maguire or Johnson
There has been much said about his absence from the starting eleven. Since the arrival of Lee Johnson, the Scot has mainly been used from the bench with the occasional starting role.
Johnson made little secret that he offered the player the chance to go out on loan to secure guaranteed first-team football. This was not aimed at removing him from the Sunderland squad, but due to the forward options at Johnson’s disposal, it was seen as a chance to give the player a better chance at starting more games.
In the lead up to the Lincoln game, Johnson has once again reiterated that there are no problems between him and the player. He told the Sunderland Echo: “There’s been no falling out or a bad word between us. “I get people won’t always believe that. Of course, you have the professional side of a player being frustrated, not so much now but five or six weeks ago where he wants to play and help out.
“That’s the decision of any coach, you’ve got to make these decisions. Chris has played in a cup final. You’re always trying to get the balance of fitness, match fitness, confidence, players who can handle occasions.”
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