Jeremain Lens Called Up, But He Ain't Coming Back
It was a feat he couldn't manage during his spell at the Stadium of Light, but Jeremain Lens has been rewarded for his performances on loan at Fenerbahce with a recall to the Dutch national side.
Lens has been named in the World Cup qualifying squad to face Luxembourg on Sunday. The nod marks a return from two years in the international wilderness for the winger, who turns 29 later this month.
Lens scored 5 goals during the Netherlands' World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign before featuring in 3 group game victories and the semi-final in Brazil. Indeed when he arrived at Sunderland, reunited with his former coach Dick Advocaat, many thought he would be a key acquisition.
In truth Jeremain Lens wasn't suited to Sunderland and Sunderland wasn't suited to Jeremain Lens.
His spell here was littered with hints of discontent. He was fined two weeks wages by Sam Allardyce for refusing to take part in a warm-down following last December's home defeat to Watford; and in spite of various public challenges to win over manager, team mates and fans alike, that feat just seemed beyond the mercurial Dutchman.
And so it is that Lens has publicly stated, in the Turkish media, that he has no desire to return to Sunderland. When asked if he hoped to stay at Fenerbahce, he said:
I am happy as I am. I have friendships within the team, excellent friendships. I feel like I belong here. If the management of Fenerbahce want me, I want to stay.
Some had suggested last week, following his star performance in the Europa League against Manchester United, that David Moyes had been too hasty in allowing Lens to leave on loan. Any prospect of his return now looks unlikely - in truth, another wasted £9m in Sunderland's perpetual flawed recruitment strategy.
Papy Djilobodji was a big name at FC Nantes in his five year spell at the eight-time French champions.
His transfer to Chelsea in 2015 was a surprise to many and no sooner had he departed, than the president of Nantes, Waldemar Kita, was boasting of the deal he had personally engineered for £3m. Of the deal Kita said:
He has an agent who knows nothing about football....I tried to put him in a club of some value because he [Djilobodji] has physical, mental and athletic qualities to go further. But there are plenty of people around him who advise him very badly.
As it happened, the move to Chelsea was a step too far. Djilobodji only featured in a blue shirt for a solitary minute before being loaned out to Werder Bremen last season.
But, Papy Djolobodji remains well regarded at Nantes, and retains the nickname Grandpapy (get it?). And so it is that one of France's current top youth prospects, Thomas Basila, has been heaping praise on his former idol:
In my position, I am inspired by players like Papy Djilobodji. This is Grandpa offering me advice besides his boots in my early days. I still remember his little words before he left Nantes.
Djilobodji had his best game in a Sunderland shirt against Bournemouth on Saturday. He has endured a shaky start to life as a Premier League defender but looked far more assured at the Vitality Stadium in David Moyes' maiden win.
The Sunday Papers
The glorious reaction to Saturday's victory has continued long after the lights were dimmed at the Vitality Stadium and Bournemouth supporters had trudged away to their bonfires ruing the resurrection of Victor Anichebe. Here's a roundup of the best bits from the national press.
The Guardian hailed Sunderland's new strike partnership of Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe, but pondered the selection dilemma now facing Moyes for the visit of Hull a week on Saturday:
One of Moyes’s biggest calls before that will be whether he sticks with two strikers having switched to 4-4-2 at Bournemouth, giving Victor Anichebe a first start as a supplement for Jermain Defoe.
Sticking with his winning formula would help Defoe, who has scored 21 in his past 39 games – an impressive feat considering he has ploughed such a lone furrow. History indicates he thrives off having a burlier partner and, considering the paucity of decent service he has endured for some time, Moyes is tempted to continue with it.
In a pretty decent write up of the game and the current state of the Sunderland squad, the Guardian writers offered these thoughts on Duncan Watmore:
The ceaseless running of Duncan Watmore is another positive but Moyes is urging the 22-year-old to curb his enthusiasm. “He’s got something but needs to learn when to slow down and speed up. Technically, his development will improve.”
So too, you expect, will Sunderland’s results if they continue to battle as they did on Saturday.
The Telegraph pundit, former Arsenal striker Alan Smith, included Jordan Pickford in his Team of the Week. The 22-year old goalkeeper has conceded 17 goals in his 9 starts this season, but without him Sunderland would have conceded twice as many.
Pickford has faced the highest number of shots of any Premier League 'keeper and made the most saves.
There's also a neat little summation in the piece of the boost to David Moyes from Saturday's victory:
The Sunderland manager has endured a miserable time of things up in the north-east so far this year and even he was willing to admit that the main reason he remained in the job was due to the club's instability in recent years.
The article points out that before Saturday, Moyes had gone 946 days without a Premier League win. Admittedly he was in Spain for some it, but the last time the Scot had enjoyed the smile of victory in England was in April 2014. His last win? A 4-0 demolition of Newcastle United. Saying that, it's still some 300 days less than Jack Rodwell has waited to be on the winning team.
The Mirror reveals Wahbi Khazri is the premier ten-pin bowler at Sunderland. In an interview with Jordan Pickford, the Tunisian winger is unveiled as the player who got the highest score in a team-bonding trip last week. Khazri, like Napoleon Bonaparte, was born in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica, home to two bowling alleys. His skittling-prowess is surely either a sign of a miss-spent youth or that of a man with an eye for the target.