Sunderland signing Billy Jones may have to make debut as a left-back

New signing Billy Jones could be asked to play left-back for Sunderland if they are unable to sign a specialist before the start of next season

Getty Images Billy Jones in action for West Brom against Newcastle United
Billy Jones in action for West Brom against Newcastle United last season

Billy Jones could make his Sunderland debut in their problem position at left-back, depending on how the club’s summer recruitment goes.

The 27-year-old joined on a free transfer from West Bromwich Albion, and is likely to make his Premier League debut at the Hawthorns on the opening weekend of the new season.

That will most likely be in his preferred position of right-back, but coach Gustavo Poyet has revealed he will also come into consideration on the opposite side of the defence.

Jones was signed to replace Phil Bardsley, who joined Stoke City when his Sunderland contract expired at the end of the season.

And like Bardsley, he could find himself asked to fill in at both full-back positions.

Sunderland are still hoping to permanently sign Marcos Alonso, who impressed on loan from Fiorentina in the second half of last season. If a deal could be completed for the Spaniard in time for the trip to West Brom on August 16, he will be their left-back. If not, Jones could yet be needed there.

“Billy can play both sides and was happy to come and do the deal early, which was key for us,” said Poyet as he reviewed Sunderland’s early-summer transfer dealings. “We are looking forward to seeing him.”

Now Bardsley, Alonso, Ondrej Celustka and Andrea Dossena have left, Jones is the only specialist full-back at the club. However, Sebastian Larsson, who renewed his contract at the end of the season, can provide cover at right-back if needed.

Jones’ final West Brom appearance came at left-back, against West Ham United in April, but it was the only time he had appeared there in two seasons of Premier League football.

Left-back has long been a problem for Sunderland.

Dossena was signed as their first specialist in the position since the days of George McCartney, but the Italian looked woefully short of match fitness, and Bardsley was forced to deputise at times. Alonso joined mid-season and made the position his own.

The previous campaign Sunderland relied on Danny Rose, on a season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur, to fill the gap.

John O’Shea and Wes Brown both played at full-back for Manchester United, but are now seen as the Wearsiders’ first choices in the centre of defence.

Santiago Vergini filled in on occasions at right-back last season, but is another to have left at the end of his short-term deal.

Sunderland will therefore ideally need to sign three more full-backs in this transfer window. As it does not close until a fortnight into the new season, it is more than likely they will not have all three in by then.

Alonso’s prospects at Fiorentina do not look too bright, with captain Manuel Pasqual and Juan Manuel Vargas for competition, but a return to Wearside is far from guaranteed.

The Black Cats are thought to have lodged a formal bid but Sam Allardyce, who managed Alonso at Bolton Wanderers, is interested in taking him to West Ham. Swansea City are also thought to be interested.

Sunderland’s revamp of their squad will be more wide-ranging than simply the full-backs, with all areas of the team apart from goalkeeper – where Costel Pantilimon has been signed to compete with Vito Mannone – under review.

Crewe Alexandra striker Max Clayton is on trial on Wearside with a view to a possible move, and Queen’s Park Rangers forward Charlie Austin is another under consideration.

Ignacio Scocco and Danny Graham could be moved on to make space – while Southampton are thought to be weighing up an offer for Connor Wickham.

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