BILLY JONES is now “ready” to be considered for a starting spot after missing the opening of the season through injury.
Jones was pencilled in to begin the campaign as Sunderland’s first-choice right-back after arriving on a Bosman deal from West Brom this summer.
But the 27-year-old suffered problems with a tight hamstring during Sunderland’s pre-season trip to Portugal and was only able to resume full training on the eve of the Premier League campaign getting underway.
Jones, who started Sunderland’s Capital One Cup victory at Birmingham last month as a left-back, is now up to speed though and is putting pressure on Argentine Santiago Vergini, the current occupant of the right-back spot.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet said: “I tell you what, there are five or six players - and Billy is one of them - who are pushing so hard to get in the side.
“That’s great for me.
“Billy is right, he’s ready, as is (Emanuele) Giaccherini, Jordi (Gomez) and (Will) Buckley.
“We’ve got the options.
“But it’s difficult to change five or six players and for it to click.
“Billy is there though.
“I’m telling him ‘don’t worry, you’re there, it’s just a matter of time before you’re playing’.
“And then it’s down to him.”
As the Echo reported yesterday, Poyet is keen to use specific players for specific situations this season, depending on the nature of the opposition.
And the former Brighton manager knows that in Jones and Vergini, he has two very contrasting right-backs available.
Poyet added: “I would like to use him and Santi in a certain way, either depending on whether the team is winning, or what is needed in a particular game.
“You need a certain type of defender for certain games.
“Now, that’s down to me using the squad well, without being a tinker.
“As managers, we complicate sometimes and football is not that complicated.
“But at the same time, you need to use the squad the right way.”