Josh Maja's roundabout route to the Premier League

Jude Summerfield
Maja scoring his first of the night
Maja scoring his first of the night / Pool/Getty Images

There's always been plenty of hype over Josh Maja. It's just he left these shores a few years ago, so it took him coming back to England for us to remember what all the fuss was about.

On Sunday night, he showed everyone just what the buzz is about, scoring twice in Fulham's crucial 2-0 win at Everton. But it's been a protracted route to the top for the Sunderland 'Til I Die star.

In that show's second season, Maja featured pretty heavily. It was mainly his contract situation with the club that was publicly displayed, though his performances in League One more than caught the eye.

Maja scored twice in the 2-0 win at Everton
Maja scored twice in the 2-0 win at Everton / Pool/Getty Images

During the 2018/19 season, Maja scored 15 league goals in 25 appearances, being the side's main goal threat as the Black Cats aimed to return to the second tier of English football. However, a contract extension was declined by Maja as clubs circled, and in January 2019 he signed a four-and-a-half year contract with Ligue 1 side Bordeaux.

It would take him until April to score his first league goal in France during a 2-1 loss at Nimes as he finished the 2018/19 season with seven league appearances for his new side.

His second season in Gironde was more fruitful. It mustered only 21 Ligue 1 appearances, but he returned a decent haul of six goal, as well as another couple of strikes in cup competitions.

Maja couldn't make the most of his appearances at Bordeaux
Maja couldn't make the most of his appearances at Bordeaux / GUILLAUME SOUVANT/Getty Images

But this season, opportunities became harder to come by.

Maja's only league goals came against Angers in August and Marseille in October, with Hwang Ui-jo given the forward role more often that not. Maja's performance levels dropped and he was soon deemed surplus to requirements.

That's where Fulham come in.

Scott Parker's side remain in trouble despite their brilliant win at Goodison Park. One of their main issues has been converting their solid performances into wins, with the recent run of draws encouraging but results which could come back to haunt them in the late stages of the season.

Maja made a deadline day loan move to Fulham, the side he played for as a youth player, and came off the bench against West Ham for his Premier League debut. Eight days later, he was given his first start in the competition at Everton.

It was his movement in the final third that was most impressive.

The 22-year-old was left unmarked for his first of the night, sliding in to tap Ola Aina's cross home, before he ghosted into the box to poke in the rebound after Harrison Reed hit the post.

His goals proved crucial in securing a win for Parker and Fulham. It might even make the loan deal worth it on its own. However, the Cottagers are still seven points adrift of 17th placed Newcastle, so Maja's work isn't exactly done yet.

Of the three teams currently in the relegation zone, Fulham look the most likely to avoid relegation, but even then it's not exactly likely. More nuggety performances are needed, and more poacher-like finishes from Maja could prove pivotal.