Josh Maja: Sunderland striker wins EFL Young Player of the Month award for August

Sunderland Josh Maja League One Young Player of the Month
Josh Maja scored four goals in his first four League One appearances of the season

Picture this: you are 19 and you are a young striker who recently graduated from the academy at Sunderland, who have been relegated two seasons in a row.

As they prepare for League One, they sign Charlie Wyke for £1m and Jerome Sinclair on loan from Watford.

How do you respond? With five goals in the first seven league games, of course. And by mimicking Kylian Mbappe's celebration.

That is the haul of goals that has earned Sunderland's Josh Maja the English Football League's Young Player of the Month award for August.

The Lewisham-born centre forward, 19, was tasked with filling the shoes of Wyke and Sinclair, both of whom have been out injured, and has thrived in Jack Ross' young side.

"I always had it at the front of my mind that I was going to be involved, but I wasn't sure if I was going to start," Maja told BBC Newcastle. "The manager's shown that faith in me and he's given me opportunities. I've repaid that faith.

"League One is a very difficult league - it's physical and it's hard work - but as a team we've started off really well.

"As long as we keep playing our football and we keep listening to the manager, we'll gain promotion this year. That's our goal. As long as we keep staying as a team and pushing each other to be better, that's going to happen."

'I was thinking 'every time I shoot, I'm going to score'

Josh Maja League One Young Player of the Month Sunderland Kylian Mbappe
Josh Maja has made a habit of mimicking World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe's signature celebration

Maja has the hallmarks of a top striker; clinical finishing and composure, timing his runs and finishes to perfection in a Sunderland team that have brought swagger back to Wearside.

"As a striker on your own, you have lots of responsibility to hold up the ball and to work hard for the team," Maja said. "Playing with someone, you've got that link-up play as well as playing off each other, and I think I can do both roles.

"Of course there's going to come a time where you don't score in a game, and you have to be ready for that. But when I was scoring, I was happy and I was confident. I was thinking 'ok, every time I shoot, I'm going to score'. As more games come, I think I can keep doing that."

Despite Sunderland's well-documented struggles off the field - nine full-time managers took the helm during former owner Ellis Short's nine-year reign - the club are rebuilding steadily, making their mark in the third tier with a squad with an average age of 26.

With the season eight games old, Sunderland are fourth in the table. United States international Lynden Gooch, 22, has played all of their games, as has academy graduate George Honeyman. Sixteen-year-old midfielder Bali Mumba started the first two matches.

"It's a big statement," concludes Maja. "There are a lot of options for the manager and that makes for healthy competition in training. As long as we work together as a team, we're going to bring out the best in each other.

"We've going to keep that confidence because we've got a lot of games to go. We keep pushing each other to be better. I think the manager's going to keep on to us, and that's going to give us that confidence and that belief."