Sunderland defensive crisis ahead of Southampton trip

Billy Jones

Billy Jones

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GUS POYET admits Sunderland need to find a short-term solution to their mini-crisis at the back, with only FOUR fit defenders available.

Former France international right-back Anthony Reveillere joined Sunderland on trial this week, with the Black Cats due to make a decision on whether to offer the free agent a contract after the weekend.

The Black Cats are down to the bare bones in defence after full-back Billy Jones suffered a hamstring strain in a practice game against Middlesbrough last week – the opposite hamstring to the one which sidelined him at the start of the season – and is expected to be out for a further fortnight.

With on-loan Liverpool centre-half Sebastian Coates also on the treatment table with a knee injury, Poyet’s defence for today’s trip to Southampton picks itself, with Wes Brown due to return to the starting XI.

Head coach Poyet acknowledged last month that Sunderland were taking a risk by boasting only six players in their defensive ranks after the end of the transfer window, with the Black Cats now forced to consider the Bosman market after that gamble has back-fired.

Poyet said: “Now, we’re short and that’s it. There’s no excuses and it’s up to us to sort it out.

“It’s just the quantity.

“The seven that I was expecting to have (by the end of the window) became six and then of course, we took certain risks that now makes it hard work.

“We need to be careful.

“It’s why we’ve got Anthony here training with us.

“It would be nice to have a proper right-back replacement (for Jones) or even left-back because he can play there.”

Reveillere has impressed Poyet in training, with Sunderland considering whether to offer the 34-year-old a short-term deal, albeit the Black Cats are mindful that the Frenchman has never played in the Premier League before.

But Poyet is not particularly concerned by Reveillere’s age after amassing more than 400 appearances in the French top flight before moving to Serie A outfit Napoli.

“It depends on his fitness really,” said Poyet.

“He played a lot in Italy last season and he was always a player who played plenty of games in France.

“That shows you that he’s a fit lad and he looks fit.

“The problem is England is completely different. You cannot compare it.

“People think we exaggerate that, but it’s true. Ask Ricky (Alvarez). The first half-hour against Spurs, it was like he was on another planet.

“You need to see that and put it into games, which is the most difficult part.

“At the moment he’s only training with us.

“Of course, it would be easier if no-one knew anything, but nowadays it’s impossible to do that.

“It’s just a matter of seeing in the next few days if we can do something.”

The small comfort for Poyet with his defensive headache is that Jones is not expected to be a long-term absentee.

Poyet added: “Normally it would take you three weeks, but he did it more than a week ago, so we’ll see.

“He was doing so well. It’s just a matter of making sure he’s alright.

“He’s just unlucky.

“Billy got injured 15 minutes before we finished. Those things happen.

“It’s not nice, I don’t like it, it’s frustrating, but I accept it. That’s football. I’ve been injured as well.”