SUNDERLAND’S medical team have been extra-cautious with Billy Jones to ensure the summer signing breaks his pattern of injury misery.
Jones could make his return in Boxing Day’s visit of Hull City, with Sunderland desperate for fit full-backs after fielding four central defenders alongside the back-line in last weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby triumph.
With Sunderland awaiting news on the severity of Anthony Reveillere’s injury and Patrick van Aanholt still around a fortnight away from returning, Gus Poyet is hopeful that Jones will be available for the clash against Steve Bruce’s second-bottom Tigers.
Jones has been sidelined for longer than expected with the hamstring strain suffered in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Middlesbrough in mid-October.
But, after the 27-year-old missed the start of the season with an injury to the opposite hamstring and was plagued by similar problems at West Brom last year, Sunderland have kept his recovery at a steady pace.
Poyet told the Echo: “There were a few things we did to make sure that all the steps were right.
“With the type of injury that (Emanuele) Giaccherini had (an ankle injury), you can really push your fitness levels high without affecting it.
“Billy’s is a hamstring problem, so there is a level that you cannot get over because there is a risk.
“You can train, but not to the standards of being able to play very quickly.
“So, yes, we’ve been careful, but I think he could be close for Boxing Day.”