Sunderland’s derby goal hero Billy Jones on how he has adapted to left-back slot

Billy Jones celebrates scoring in the derby
Billy Jones celebrates scoring in the derby

Sunderland’s problems at full-back caused Dick Advocaat a major headache in the final weeks of his Stadium of Light reign.

Advocaat realised that left-back Patrick van Aanholt needed to be taken out of the firing line after a gaffe-prone start to the season.

I’m trying to perform as well as I can, and if that’s good enough for the gaffer, then it’s good enough for me

Billy Jones

But the ex-Sunderland boss was wary of doing so, due to van Aanholt being the only specialist left-back on the books and the make-do-and-mend alternatives available.

Billy Jones had always looked more comfortable at right-back during his time at Sunderland, DeAndre Yedlin had only fleetingly played on the left in his fledging career, and summer signing Adam Matthews was both injured and unconvincing.

Eventually – for his final game at the helm – Advocaat bit the bullet and dropped van Aanholt, and asked the right-footed Jones to play out-of-position.

But in his three games as a makeshift left-back, Jones – the unlikely goal hero in last weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby win – has been quietly efficient, with Sunderland’s defence looking much more resilient as a result.

Jones told the Echo: “Obviously, it’s a little bit different when you’re playing off your other shoulder, when you’re defending and receiving the ball.

“But, like I’ve always said, I’m happy to play there.

“And if we’re winning, I’m even happier.

“I’m trying to perform as well as I can, and if that’s good enough for the gaffer, then it’s good enough for me.”

Sunderland’s greater solidity at the back saw them register a first clean sheet of the season, together with a maiden win, against Newcastle.

And Jones admits that has provided a confidence boost to Sunderland’s defensive unit this week, albeit centre-halves John O’Shea and Younes Kaboul could both miss out on Sunday afternoon’s trip to Everton through injury.

“It was a massive bonus to get the clean sheet,” said the 28-year-old.

“You look at the table and it’s not nice to see that you haven’t gone a Premier League game without conceding.

“To get that and, at the same time a first win, it was just a great, great day, and everyone’s really happy now.

“Hopefully we can take that confidence into this weekend’s game.”

If Sunderland are to build on their derby win at Goodison Park though, they will have to an end an unwanted pattern.

After each of the previous four victories over Newcastle, Sunderland suffered defeat in the following game, to burst the feel-good factor stemming from beating the Magpies.

“It has seemed to happen that we lose the next game after the derby,” added Jones.

“But we hope this win kick-starts our season.

“We know it will be very, very tough at Everton, but we’ve been working hard all week to come up with a game-plan to get a positive result.”