Billy Jones insists Sunderland’s starters from their Premier League dress rehearsal will keep grounded over the likelihood of beginning the season in the side.
Dick Advocaat gave a big hint towards his starting XI for next Saturday’s curtain-raiser at Leicester with the side he selected for Sunderland’s final pre-season friendly against Hannover 96 on Saturday.
I don’t think you can read too much into the team selection, to be honest.Billy Jones
Advocaat named what appeared to be the strongest side at his disposal, with new signing Younes Kaboul intriguingly picked ahead of captain John O’Shea at centre-half.
But defender Jones, who now has summer arrival Adam Matthews competing with him at right-back, won’t take it for granted that he will be in the side for the opening day trip to the King Power Stadium.
Jones said: “I don’t think you can read too much into the team selection, to be honest.
“You just have to play well in pre-season when you get the opportunity, try and make an impression on the gaffer, and work hard in training this week in the hope that you are selected for the first game of the season.
“That was the first time I have played 90 minutes and felt good for the whole 90 minutes, without being jetlagged or anything.”
While the phoney war of pre-season is now over, there was certainly a far more positive mood in the Sunderland camp in Germany after their 1-0 victory over Hannover.
Sunderland looked significantly sharper than they did in previous friendlies, with £8million capture Jeremain Lens grabbing the only goal of the game in the final 20 minutes, although Costel Pantilimon needed to keep out a late penalty.
“It was good to finish the pre-season with a win, especially off the back of a pretty disappointing defeat at Doncaster last week,” added Jones.
“It was important to come back from that, and you want to go into the first game of the season with some confidence and the Hannover game has given us that.
“It was a good team performance and I think everyone played that little bit better.
“I think we upped it knowing that we are a week away from the serious business with the Premier League starting, and with the chance to make a really good start with the fixtures we’ve got.
“We will go into the Leicester game with confidence, knowing that we finished last season on a good run of results as well.”