BILLY Jones is desperate to hold down Sunderland’s right-back spot after admitting his summer transfer has not worked out as planned.
Jones’ recall for last weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby paid off for Dick Advocaat, with the defender producing one of his best performances in a Sunderland shirt to help the Black Cats to a crucial win in the battle for survival.
But that was only Jones’ seventh Premier League start for the Black Cats, with a succession of hamstring injuries largely hijacking his maiden campaign at the Stadium of Light following last summer’s Bosman move from West Brom.
When he has been fit, Jones has also had to deputise at left-back, due to Sunderland’s scant defensive options, while Anthony Reveillere was preferred at right-back for the final weeks of Gus Poyet’s reign.
But after justifying Advocaat’s show of faith against Newcastle, Jones wants to complete the final seven games of the season as Sunderland’s first-choice right-back.
Jones said: “The key word is frustration.
“I spoke about coming here in the summer, wanting to make a difference and wanting to show the fans and the club what I’m all about.
“I haven’t really been able to do that.
“I’ve been in, I’ve been out, left-back, right-wing back and it’s been frustrating.
“In recent weeks, I’ve just been thinking that if I can play in the remaining games, then hopefully I can make a positive impact.
“There’s no better start than against Newcastle and hopefully I can carry that on for the rest of the season and finish on a high playing right-back.”
Jones’ performance against Newcastle was all the more impressive given he hadn’t featured in the Premier League since January, but he should get another opportunity tomorrow against Crystal Palace, as Sunderland target back-to-back top flight wins for the first time this season.
Alan Pardew’s in-form Palace side are now just three points shy of the top 10 after a stunning reversal of fortunes which has seen them win four of their last five games.
But Jones says Sunderland need to harness fan-power this weekend after the electric derby atmosphere saw the Black Cats register just a third Stadium of Light win of the campaign.
“Obviously consistency is massive within the league and we’re fortunate we’ve got another home game,” added the 28-year-old.
“I imagine the stadium and the atmosphere will be bouncing again.
“It’s going to be a really tough game against Crystal Palace. They’re very well-organised and we know their threats.
“But we’ve been working hard on the training ground and hopefully we can get another three points.
“It really was an amazing atmosphere last weekend. I don’t think I even heard the final whistle.
“Obviously the fans have had a frustrating season watching us at home.
“But I feel like if we can play to that level, we’ll get a few more home wins between now and the end of the season.
“The fans will always be behind you if they see the commitment and the effort.
“That was there from minute one last weekend.
“We’ve got to make sure it’s there from minute one in every game at home.
“If we play to that level, our quality will shine through and we can finish on a high this season.”