Billy Jones warns soft Sunderland they must toughen up

Billy Jones has said Sunderland must make themselves a tough side to beat first and foremost as they seek to climb away from relegation trouble.

Billy Jones
Billy Jones

The Black Cats were again undone in the first half at the Hawthorns as goals from Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt all but settled the contest.

David Moyes was again left lamenting defensive errors, both Baggies players left with too much space to shoot and score.

Sunderland were had created little of their own in the opening exchanges but had at least been competing. It had been the same story at Turf Moor in midweek, when a tepid but steady first-half display was undone by a failure to pick up Sam Vokes at the near post.

Jones said cutting those errors is key to turning things around.

He said: “The Burnley game and this one, there’s not a lot in it, they’re probing, we’re probing, trying to get our foot on the ball, make things happen.

“Not a lot is happening and maybe as a neutral you’d be thinking this could be a 0-0, but if you concede those sloppy goals and then give teams an 
advantage it’s hard.

“We need to get those clean sheets to give ourselves at least a point, and go from there.”

Not only have Sunderland only won once since the 1-0 win over Watford in December, the draw with Liverpool in the new year has been their only other positive result in that team.

Jones added that building a foundation was the only way to to start consistently winning games.

He said: “I think we’re going into games with the message of trying to be hard to beat first and foremost, as a collective group, and then the attacking threat coming from that.

“Especially away from home you’ve got to try and frustrate them and play your way into the game and go from there. But just as we’re playing our way into the game we concede a sloppy goal then we’re on the back foot, then another way.

“Any Premier League team you’re playing,if you give them a two-goal headstart, needing three to win the game, it’s going to be really, really tough.

“We’re not helping ourselves and as the gaffer said it’s not just this week, other weeks also.

Still, the right-back takes hope from the experience Sunderland have of escaping these poor runs of form in previous seasons, and that they are stil far from adrift when it comes to the Premier League table.

He said: “The only positive we have at this moment in time is knowing we’re not cut adrift.

“I think we just need to keep working hard, stay together and keep that belief. You get that first and foremost from good team performances, if you can get those week in week out and hit that level of consistency, the results will come. It starts from doing the basics.

“In previous years it’s come from hard work, doing everything we can to stay in the game and feel our way into it. Eventually we’ll win the games.

“I know last year when we went on some good runs, we weren’t even always playing that well at times, but we’d at least stay in the game and get a clean sheet and that’s a point.

“We just need that performance to give us confidence and set the bar, that’s the level we need to hit consistently.”