Billy Jones hopes his short-term fututre is looking brighter after his first 90 minutes of the season this week.
But the 29-year-old is convinced Sunderland’s long-term future is very promising after seeing the ability of the club’s young talent at first hand.
Jones skippered the U23 team to a 1-0 victory at Hartlepool United in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.
From a selfish perspective, the night was a success for the right-back as he pushes for a return to the Premier Leaggue squad, but he was happy with what he saw from the young team.
“I think all the Under 23 players can be proud of how they played against a good Hartlepool first team,” said Jones.
“One thing I’ve seen training with these lads day-in, day-out, they have great energy, enthusiasm for the game.
“In the match it was nice as a full-back in the final third to see the lads trying to make the angles and get on the ball.
“We spoke before the game about players getting on the ball, wanting the ball and having no fears.
“The lads showed that against Hartlepool, we tried to play out from the back, tried to pass the ball well, be calculated with our play without taking too much of a risk.
“The lads did really well, getting on the ball and showing what they can do.”
Sunderland’s young guns will be back out again on Tuesday, November 8, when Robbie Stockdale’s side look to book their place in the knock-out stages of the competition.
Providing the Black Cats avoid defeat to Notts County at the Stadium of Light, they will reach the last 32.
It is a vital taste of senior football for the youngsters but, as Jones points out, the tournament plays a crucial part of injury rehabiliation for ‘old stagers’ like him.
“When you get told you are playing for the 23s, it’s important,” said the ex-West Brom defender who has recovered from hip trouble which flared up in pre-season.
“It’s the chance to test that injury out.
“You saw Jan Kirchhoff do it in the previous Checkatrade Trophy match at Rochdale after he’d been out for a long time.
“It’s that final test that you need as a player.
“You can do all the training, work-outs and running in the world but it’s in games like Hartlepool that you really find out whether you are ready to go again.
“You are playing what you’d call proper football against experienced league players and proper blokes.
“I felt good, obviously a little bit tired at times, which I to be expected, but I’m happy how it went overall.”