Lens gets Netherlands nod as he pays tribute to departed dad
Jeremain Lens has been called up to the Netherlands squad for international matches at the end of the month. The Dutch side face Bulgaria in a World Cup Qualifier and follow that with a friendly against Italy on home soil.
The Sunderland winger paid tribute to his father on Sunday as Fenerbahçe beat Ankara-based outfit Osmanlıspor by a goal to nil. Lens senior passed away at the end of last week.
According to reports in Turkey, the player cut short his trip and missed part of his father's funeral proceedings to take part in Fenerbahçe's match. Last rites ceremonies in the communities of Suriname, the South American former Dutch colony where the Lens family hail from, can last three to four days.
Jeremain Lens will not attend his father's funeral just to be on time for the Fenerbahçe - Osmanlıspor game. Pure love, pure discipline. pic.twitter.com/41UzciD5Ak— Fener Int (@fenerint) March 4, 2017
Lens has been the Istanbul team's best performing player this season, contributing 12 assists in all competitions and scoring 3 goals.
And those performances have alerted Fener's rivals to his potency in the Süper Lig. Earlier this week Turkish league leaders, Besiktas, were rumoured to have enquired about his availability at the end of this season's loan spell and now Galatasaray are also said to be monitoring the situation.
The 29-year-old is under contract at Sunderland until 2019 and will most likely to be sold at the end of the season. If the Black Cats drop into the Championship, they can expect any interested party to be able to pick him up for a reduced fee due to a relegation-clause in his deal at the Stadium of Light.
Dick Advocaat's Fenerbahçe will have first refusal on the winger with that buy-on option expiring at the end of May.
Ticket prices frozen - good value?
Sunderland have announced that season ticket prices will be frozen next season. With the club looking increasingly likely to be serving up Championship football, the price of a 23-game bonanza in the second tier will cost the same as this campaign's 19-match one - assuming the worst happens - and with the Black Cats now at odds of 1/10 at most bookmakers to face the drop, not many will be banking on their renewal investment bringing in Premier League matches.
The move - which will see season cards start at £350 for adults, £50 for under 16's and £250 for the over-65's - has been welcomed in most quarters, particularly because of the continued efforts to attract younger fans with attractive prices for kids.
But, is it really value for money or is this just the club hedging their bets to attract renewals as the division in which Sunderland will play next season continues to hang in the balance?
Certainly ticket prices at the Stadium of Light cost less now than they did when Sunderland first returned to the Premier League a decade ago. But, the standard of football offered this season coupled with the dismal forecast portrayed off the pitch may see some fans waiver as to whether to commit to another year of watching a team which has won less than a quarter of its home games in recent campaigns.
Season-card holders have another month to make up their mind with the 7th April the deadline for renewals.
Football has always been generally affordable at Sunderland - relative to the rest of the upper-tiers of the English game. But, with 40,000-plus crowds still the norm - the sixth highest in the Premier League - the club rarely hits the Stadium of Light's 48,000 capacity and relegation would likely knock 10,000-plus off the gate.
In fact, it's not even much more expensive to watch Sunderland at the Stadium of Light than it was at Roker Park. Twenty years ago a standing season ticket in the Fulwell End would have set supporters back just short of £200, with a seat in the Main Stand costing £295 in 1996.
Lads hit the beach & all smiles for Fabio
In time-honoured tradition, the Sunderland squad hit Seaburn beach yesterday for a training session.
As the Wearside riviera basked in a little early spring Sunshine and that ever-present cool breeze washed the shore from the North Sea, players including Papy Djilobodji, Jason Denayer, Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong warmed up amongst the dog walkers and Seaburn strollers on the stretch in front of the Little Italy restaurant.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Fabio Borini met well-wishers, autograph hunters and fans as he made an appearance at the club shop.
The Italian forward had even undergone a shave for the occasion - and in truth, he looked about a decade younger than his twenty-five-years.