Billy Jones was confirmed yesterday as our first summer signing on a free transfer. Whilst we have all probably heard of the 27-year old, I think it’s safe to say we don’t know much about him.
With that in mind, we asked Richard (writer for Baggies Blog) a few questions which he kindly dedicated some of this time to. Here is what we can expect from our new full back;
WAW: Jones is now officially our only full back and will be replacing Phil Bardsley who is good in the tackle but suspect with his positioning and likes to waste productive situations with long shots (that do go in every now and then) - how does Jones contrast?
Richard: Jones has been one of Albion’s most improved players over the past 2 seasons. Having said that he needed to be!
After joining us from Preston, Jones looked a little out of his depth but after some obvious hard work has developed into a competent full back. Despite his improvement, Jones is still a worry defensively, at times being made to look like a Championship defender when faced with a half decent winger. He does enjoy getting forward, however he can disappoint with his final ball at times and his record of 1 goal in 66 Baggies appearances is proof enough that he doesn’t get many goals despite his many forays into the opposition box.
Having said that, he is always a willing runner and if he can sort out his final ball, he could really be a real attacking threat.
WAW: Is he versatile or should he only be deployed as a full back?
Richard: Jones played for a season in central midfield for Preston before joining Albion but has only ever played as right back for us so I would find it hard to comment on that. As he does enjoy attacking, I could see him being used as a right winger if desperate but I would be surprised to see him used as anything other than a right back.
WAW: Gus Poyet's philosophy depends heavily on the fullbacks who are more like wingbacks, advancing high in possession but quickly tracking back when losing it, creating the angles, keeping the width. Do you think Jones has the pace, passing and positional sense to be successful in this role?
Richard: As I said earlier, Jones does enjoy getting forward and I’m sure he will relish a wing back role. He’s not blessed with searing pace but is by no means slow. When in possession, Jones will rarely change a game by creating a goal but he doesn’t often lose the ball and is very economical in possession. Positionally he is fairly sound but can occasionally get caught a little flat footed when possession is lost.
WAW: We had an irritating habit last season of players getting sent off and scoring own goals, how is Jones' record for these?
Richard: You will be pleased to hear that Jones has never been sent off in Albion colours. That’s not to say he shirks a tackle. Whilst not having a particularly nasty side, Jones doesn’t hold back and is only likely to be sent off for mistiming a couple of tackles rather than a moment of madness. Likewise, I can only remember Jones scoring one own goal during his time with us.
WAW: Possibly the one question on everyone's lips is - did you figure out what his hair is about during his time at the Hawthorns?
Richard: Jones’ hair is the stuff of legend and whilst I’m not usually a fan a man in a hair band, Jones pulls it off with aplomb and even when he isn’t playing well it makes a fun game to guess how big his hair will be this week.
WAW: Finally, do you think this is a good signing forSunderland?
Richard: As Jones is arriving on a free transfer, I definitely think it’s a good bit of business for Sunderland. He won’t necessarily be a guaranteed name on the team sheet each week but he will make superb back up and when called upon, he will rarely let you down. He’s a model professional who gets on with his job of playing football, living a very quiet private life off the pitch. Jones is a likeable character and his effort and endeavour will certainly endear him to the Sunderlandfans. As I’ve said he isn’t gifted with a huge amount of natural talent but the improvement he has made over the past 2 seasons due to his effort and determination have ensured that I, along with many other Albion fans, am sorry to see him leave the Hawthorns and I would like to wish him all the best at The Stadium of Light.
All in all it sounds like some decent business. You might think he’d be on a lower wage than Phil Bardsley, but he left West Brom because of the wages he was offered so I’m not sure if there is a big difference there. Whether he is actually an improvement on Bardo remains to be seen but, judging purely on this interview, he sounds like he would do a better job helping in attack without being a huge boost in defence. Kind of like Marcos Alonso and, if he can make the same impact, would be a very good freebie*.
*There is no such thing as a freebie in football.