Sunderland v Lincoln City: Lee Johnson drops Chris Maguire hint as he explains first leg decision
Maguire was an unused substitute as Sunderland fell to a 2-0 defeat in the play-off semi final first leg at the LNER Stadium on Wednesday night.
The popular forward has been largely forced to settle for a substitute role since the turn of the year, with Johnson explaining at length why he has looked to promote other players in the set up.
Ahead of a game in which the Black Cats will play in front of home supporters for the first time in well over a year, and in which they are in desperate need of attacking inspiration. Johnson insists Maguire can have a role to play.
“We go back to where we were six or seven weeks ago when we had this discussion,” Johnson said.
“We've been honest with Chris, he knows the score. He turned down a couple of loan moves and since then he's been in and about it.
“He was on the bench the other night, we didn't put him on. We'd committed to putting Ross Stewart up top so then it's who do you take off?
“I suppose for the last five minutes there was the option of Chris or Jack Diamond, so that was something that was considered.
“We know Chrissy he's a good player and we know what he can do.
“He's up for selection, absolutely.
“There's been no falling out or a bad word between us,” Johnson added.
“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.
“Chris is one of those who can handle occasions.
“He's in the squad and he's in the squad for a reason.
“We know he can play in those big games.
“We've seen it before, we saw it in the final of the Papa John's Trophy. He's ready to go if we need him.”