Sunderland AFC winger Jeremain Lens should not be judged on his performances until next season, says Black Cats manager Sam Allardyce.
So much was expected of Lens when he made the £9million move from Dynamo Kiev to the Stadium of Light last summer but has failed to impress since then.
The 28-year-old has managed three goals in 21 appearances, and his 14-minute run-out in the 2-0 defeat to Leicester City on Sunday was his first appearance since a hernia operation back in February.
The Netherlands international has joined an elite group of foreign players that have failed to make an impact in the English top-flight. However Allardyce believes that he shouldn't be judged until the next campaign.
He told The Chronicle that Lens "didn't know how it was" in his first year in English football and that his Hernia operation has "set him back".
He continued saying that Lens has had a "cultural shock" from the "level of performance" that is needed, and admits that next season will be a "big telling point" to see if he can "produce what he has abroad".
Do or die
There is no guarantee that Lens will even be even on Wearside next season with the upcoming match with fellow relegation rivals Norwich City potentially having a massive affect on his future. Lens' pedigree and wages could prove to be a tall order for a potential second-tier club.
Sunderland currently sit four points from safety with a match in hand, but with games running out and wins dried up Allardyce has admitted that it is do or die for his players.
He told safc.com that there is "no margin for error any more" and that it is something they "have to face up to".
He continued saying that there is "much more pressure" on his side than Norwich but said that the winner will be who can "handle the pressure the best".
Sunderland will visit Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday, April 16 with kick-off at 12:45pm BST.