SUNDERLAND were hamstrung by too many ‘will he, won’t he?’ contract scenarios last season.
The deals of Jack Colback, Seb Larsson, Phil Bardsley and Craig Gardner all drifted away to their expiry dates, with only one member of that quartet agreeing fresh terms – forcing the Black Cats to embark upon such a hefty summer spending spree.
It was a similar situation with Billy Jones at West Brom last season, before he joined Sunderland on a Bosman deal during the summer.
The full-back rejected a new two-year deal to stay at the Hawthorns in the Autumn and when West Brom came back to the negotiating table at the end of the campaign, Jones had already made up his mind to leave.
Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with his former club, Jones said: “With the contract negotiations, it was very much out of my hands when it came to the summer.
“It was left that late that other teams became interested.
“But I felt like I needed a fresh start.
“Every player will say it’s nice to be wanted and at West Brom in the last season, I was hampered by injuries which was very disappointing.
“But they didn’t really show that confidence and belief in me that they wanted to keep me.
“I obviously wanted to move on to play Premier League football and improve. I thought there’d be a much better chance of that at Sunderland.”
Jones missed Sunderland’s 2-2 draw at the Hawthorns on the opening day due to a hamstring injury – a problem which has repeatedly hampered the 27-year-old throughout his maiden campaign on Wearside.
But tomorrow’s visit of West Brom promises to be a much tenser affair, with the Baggies lying just two points and one place above Sunderland in the table.
Sunderland, in particular, desperately need the boost stemming from a victory after miserable defeats in their last two games.
“It was a massive shame to miss that first game of the season against them at the Hawthorns,” said Jones.
“So I’ve been looking forward to this one since then.
“It’s a big game against a team down there with us which makes it even more important that we produce that good performance and get the win.”