Sunderland new boy misses West Brom start

Billy Jones

Billy Jones

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SUMMER SIGNING Billy Jones will miss Sunderland’s opening day trip to his former club West Brom.

Jones has been struggling with a hamstring injury over the past fortnight, which has kept him out of full training and prevented him participating in Sunderland’s last two friendlies.

The right-back will again be absent today, as Sunderland conclude their pre-season programme against Italian outfit Udinese, at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park ground.

And Sunderland boss Gus Poyet expects Jones to be sidelined for around another week, ruling the 27-year-old out of a reunion at the Hawthorns next Saturday after he rejected the chance to remain at West Brom this summer to join the Black Cats on a Bosman deal.

Poyet told the Echo: “I think it will take at least another week for him to train with us.

“We’re managing the situation the best we can.”

Jones, who was limited to just 21 league appearances last season due to injury problems, is the second Sunderland player to miss the West Brom game.

Emanuele Giaccherini will also be absent after picking up a groin strain in Thursday night’s friendly against Real Betis.

With Jones absent, fellow new boy Santiago Vergini is expected to occupy the right-back slot against the Baggies after finalising his return to Sunderland on a season-long loan earlier this week.

Poyet originally signed Vergini, who played 45 minutes against Real Betis, as a central defender when he brought the Argentine defender to the Stadium of Light in the January transfer window.

But Vergini was shoehorned into a right-back role - a position he had played in his native Argentina - when Phil Bardsley was suspended and the 26-year-old remained there for the final seven games of the campaign.

Poyet has no qualms over keeping 6ft 3in Vergini at full-back and is glad to have concluded a second loan move for the Estudiantes man after a patient wait to re-sign him this summer.

“It’s been a strange summer waiting to sign Santi,” added Poyet.

“I remember I brought Santi to play centre-half, but because of the situation that we’re in, he’s a right-back now.

“He feels comfortable in that position and he doesn’t have any issues.

“He links very well with Johnno (Adam Johnson) too.

“I was watching the team on Thursday and we looked bigger and stronger, and that will help in the Premier League.”