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QK: Does Jeremain Lens have a future at Sunderland? Josh Maja's HUGE opportunity & more

Whilst yesterday's run out against SPL side Hibernian was, in truth, nothing more than a fitness exercise there is still plenty to be taken from the game. It's Quick Kicks!

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Does Lens have a Sunderland future?

How much can we read into want-away attacker Jeremain Lens' participation in yesterday's game against Hibernian?

Erm... well, probably not a lot.

We still have to try and make some money back after spunking an absolute fortune on him two years ago and stand a better chance of doing so if he's actually fit and ready to walk into another team. Plus, him scoring what was a very well-taken goal puts his name out there and may help to further tempt his potential suitors into upping their efforts to sign him.

In an ideal world he'd have a complete change in attitude towards his future at Sunderland, see this as a huge opportunity to redeem himself and show some commitment towards helping the club get back to the Premier League. He'd waltz through life in the Championship - if he wanted to.

Netherlands v Luxembourg - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

He's undoubtedly a quality player but lets be honest, there's not a chance in hell he's going to be playing second-tier football next season and I'm fairly certain that Simon Grayson will know this too.

Maja starts... and impresses

Does anyone else have a really good feeling at the minute about the potential of Josh Maja making an impact on our first team next season?

He's got an absolutely fantastic opportunity right at his feet - literally. When else has a young Sunderland striker been able to look around the dressing room and seen they're the only player in their position that we've got going into a pre-season campaign?

Some clever dick will probably point me to something really obvious - regardless, the youngster is our only available striking option and this means he'll probably be afforded plenty of game time over the coming weeks as we take on a raft of pre-season opposition.

Hibernian v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly
Josh Maja is tackled by Marvin Bartley and Lewis Stevenson of Hibernian. Another good display from the youngster!
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Simon Grayson has already spoken this past week about his admiration of the former Manchester City youth player, and having scored twice against Bury he gave a noteable performance against slightly stronger opposition in Hibernian too - a nod perhaps towards the notion that he might be able to hang at a competitive level for this club.

There's no hint that the signing of a new striker is imminent, which would lead you to expect that Josh will have a prominent role in the games against Livingston and St Johnstone in the coming days - a colossal opportunity for him to really showcase himself and prove that he should figure in Simon Grayson's plans next season.

We can't read too much into it, of course, but Maja needs to seize the chance that he has, continuing to impress and putting in professional displays - even if it is just in pre-season games against lesser opposition.

We love nothing more than to see a young player come through and make a name for themselves at this club and whilst Josh would benefit immensely from a loan away from Sunderland this summer, something tells me that we might see a fair bit of him between now and the end of the season.

Gibson - an asset?

Darron Gibson's introduction to life as a Sunderland player couldn't have been more underwhelming. But, despite acknowledging his shortcomings, I've remained optimistic that he'll come good at Sunderland eventually.

The Republic of Ireland international has impressed playing in a role that more suits his abilities in our two games so far, and the hope is that it gives us some indication as to what we can expect from him in the Championship.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

In one sense I liken him to Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey struggled playing a defensive, pressing game in the Premier League but, once they dropped a league, Newcastle had to change their playing style because they were expected to hold onto the ball and play further up the pitch. In turn, Shelvey looked an absolute star in a team where he was barely noticeable only months earlier.

I have a feeling that Darron Gibson will bring us similar qualities next season. With Sunderland expected to play on the front foot there will be less of a requirement for Gibson to press and harry the opposition - instead, he'll be the one driving the team forward from midfield, playing neat forward passes as we try to carve teams open.

He's a bit of a luxury in that sense, but at a level that perhaps suits his ability more - and with a full pre-season under his belt - I think we'll see a completely different player in the Championship.

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