Billy Jones believes Sunderland are much better prepared for big kick-off

Sunderland defender Billy Jones in action against Hartlepool United last week.
Sunderland defender Billy Jones in action against Hartlepool United last week.
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Billy Jones is confident fans will see a stronger and fitter Sunderland side than the one that started last season.

It took the Black Cats until the end of October to seal their first Premier League win, with the fitness levels of the squad criticised by Sam Allardyce when he took charge.

That was his number one priority when he replaced Dick Advocaat, with results slowly improving over the season as Sunderland fought off relegation.

Fitness won’t be an issue this season though, with Jones confident the players will reap the rewards for the hard work done on the training pitches in Austria and now France.

Sunderland are training in Evian-les-Bains, on the banks of Lake Geneva, under the watchful eye of new manager David Moyes.

“Yes, I really hope so and I think that will be the case,” Jones told the Echo when asked if this will be a different team compared to the start of last season.

“I think the work we have put in and, although I haven’t double-checked it with the coaching staff, I think the numbers will reflect that.

“When you come back for pre-season and you are going to Austria, you know it is going to be a good one with a lot of hard work.

“Every time I have been there with other clubs that has been the case, and that’s exactly what it was this time.

“We have got that base fitness, and now we are doing all the things that build sharpness and playing games as well – and it’s a bonus to be winning those games.

“Fair play to the club, we have got great facilities here – it’s walking distance to the training pitch and to the pitch where we play.

“It’s going to be a good week, with a lot of games and a lot of good work.

“Everyone is looking forward to taking on board the gaffer’s ideas and what he wants us to do as a team.

“The way we finished last season with that great work ethic and attitude, we have shown that it is still there, which is crucial.

“We’ve had a very good pre-season so far and I think it has been a lot better than it was last year – there has been a lot less travelling and a lot more time on the pitch.

“The benefit of that has shown in our friendlies so far, and will carry on in the upcoming games and then when we get to the first game of the season, we will hit the ground running.”

First impressions of Moyes have been “really, really, positive” said the right-back.

The 29-year-old added: “To be honest, we only had about 45 minutes on the training pitch with him on Monday and it was very much a case of walking through basic stuff about how he wants us to play as a team offensively and defensively.

“He said himself that he hadn’t really got much time to do stuff ahead of that game, but the players know that is going to come in the two-and-a-half weeks we have got before the first game of the season.

“By then we’ll know exactly what he wants from us as a team, and as individuals.”

The former West Brom defender played in the 2-0 win over FC Stade Nyonnais after recovering from a slight strain on the tendons behind his knee, which had forced him to miss the Rotherham United match.

He added: “It was another tough test, with a lot of changes again, but from a personal point of view it was nice to get my first full 90 minutes under my belt.

“With the new manager coming in, there were some different ideas from the full-back positions and that will take some time.”