Sunderland sign West Brom defender Billy Jones in first deal of the season

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WEST Brom defender Billy Jones has become Sunderland’s first signing of the summer after agreeing a four-year deal with the Black Cats.

He joins on a Bosman deal and will be the obvious choice at right-back to fill in for the departed Phil Bardsley, Sunderland’s leading Premier League appearance maker, who has also moved on under freedom of contract.

Albion had hoped to keep 27-year-old Jones at the Hawthorns and had made him an offer to stay at the club he made 21 starts for last season.

But the former Preston and Crewe player rejected the deal in order to sign a longer deal at Sunderland on better wages.

Jones had impressed in his three years with the West Midlands outfit following a £250,000 move from Preston North End in the summer of 2011.

But a series of injuries has restricted his appearances for Albion in the past two seasons and the club were reluctant to push the boat out to guarantee his signature.

Albion’s director of football, Richard Garlick, said: “Following further talks with Billy’s representative, we made our final offer last week - a long-term deal on vastly-improved terms base on Billy’s contribution over the past three years.

“Billy rejected this and has exercised his right to run down his contract with a view to joining Sunderland.

“We are obviously disappointed by Billy’s decision but wish him well in his future career.”

Jones made 70 starts and four sub appearances during his stay at Albion, scoring once, against Newcastle, in April last year.

The defender himself said of the move: “I’m really happy to be here and I’m looking forward to getting back for pre-season and kicking on.

“I’ve played at the Stadium of Light a number of times so I know what it’s about and what great backing the club has.

“I’ve come to the training ground today and it’s amazing. I knew I was signing for a massive club with everything in place to kick on up the league and carry on moving forward.”

Jones spent three years at the Hawthorns, making over 70 appearances for the Baggies having joined from Preston North End in 2011.

The versatile defender began his career with Crewe Alexandra, rising through their academy to play more than 130 times for the club.

He then moved to Preston North End, spending four years at Deepdale.