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Roundup: Billy Jones Is Back & The ‘Latest’ Alvarez News May Not Be Very New

In today's News mop-up: Billy Jones is the latest Sunderland fringe player to declare himself to be at David Moyes' disposal, but is he really of any use? And, if the latest round of Ricky Alvarez stories look familiar, the source is oddly reassuringly.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Billy Jones Is Back

Yesterday, I wrote that Donald Love was hoping to be the answer, having joined a queue containing the likes of Paddy McNair patiently waiting for the question.

Well, today it’s the turn of another fringe first team player to declare that his return to fitness is just the thing that we have all been waiting for.

Step forward Billy Jones.

In fairness, the 29-year old right-back has done a couple of interviews for the press since his return to action on Tuesday night, and they are oddly entertaining. For a man who looks like he firmly belongs in the 1950s, Billy seems to be a proper old-fashioned footballer, who just tells it like it is and seems to simply love playing, as best illustrated by this quote in the Sunderland Echo:
"There’s nothing better than getting changed and putting your shinnies on and being a part of things again."
Jones told the Chronicle he intends pushing his way back into David Moyes’ thinking, but his assessment of the options available to Sunderland’s manager, is way above our own view of the squad limitations:
"Personally, as a player you want that competition for places in the squad, it pushes everyone on. The club went out and signed players and brought quality in to strengthen our squad which is good."
Whilst Sunderland supporters have pondered the failings of the club to ready itself in the transfer market sufficiently for another relegation-onslaught, perhaps Billy has seen things in the summer dealings that we have yet to:
"Having strength in depth is massive in the Premier League, the club have tried to do that with their recruiting in the transfer window."
If you thought the position of right-back at Sunderland had been a problematic one for a while, you would be correct. Last season’s battle for the starting spot at number two was a contrasting affair between loanee freshman DeAndre Yedlin, and been-around-the-block Billy.

Certainly Yedlin and Jones possess diametrically opposing qualities. Yedlin has pace in abundance, but the positioning nous of a drunk man in a dark hotel room, and whilst Jones' defensive sense is relatively sound, his game offers the team little else, saving a back-foot, backs-to-the-wall approach.

Billy is clearly oblivious to his weaknesses however, saying about his return to fitness against Hartlepool:
"It was a chance to attack more from full-back, which is what I try to do when I’m playing for the first team as well."
Adam Matthews was the other right back at the club last season, but for whatever reason he was never given a chance. In effect, Matthews’ spot has been taken by ex-Manchester United youngster Donald Love this term. Heaven only knows what Love is though. Only yesterday it was proclaimed that he might really be a midfielder. The other player to feature at right-back this season - centre-half Jason Denayer.

So, it is a reflection of the state of Sunderland’s squad which has us moderately pleased that Billy Jones is pushing back to match fitness, just so that there is some defensive cover in defensive positions.

Jones too turned out in midfield in his younger days, but it is a relief to hear a Sunderland player who is at least aware of his best position on the park. Seven games in to the season, it is starting to become a little disheartening to hear a string of players proclaiming that their best position is actually something different to where they have been playing.

Fellow right-back, Javier Manquillo, has been underwhelming since his loan arrival from Atletico Madrid, and if the Spanish giants were to demand a huge fee for any permanent signature, at this rate you would hope Sunderland’s legal eagles are this time confident about the clauses they inserted in the agreement after recent loan disasters such as Sebastian Coates and Ricky Alvarez....

Tricky Ricky Alvarez - Heard It All Before

The story of Ricardo Alvarez is pretty well documented – Sunderland signed him on loan, it didn’t work out, we sent him back to Inter claiming he had a dodgy knee, but Inter didn’t want him back either and demanded we pay for him, claiming the buy-on clause in the agreement between the clubs meant Sunderland were obliged to sign him. For our part, Sunderland had argued his injury negated any permanent deal.

So, Ricky went into exile in Argentina for a while, got himself fit and signed for Sampdoria as a freebie for the Genoa-based outfit.

And, fair play to the man – he has received decent plaudits in Italy for his performances since then.

But, like that buy-now-pay-later thing that you have yet to pay for, but which now lies broken, the Ricky Alvarez deal has loomed over Sunderland for over a year. The case has already been before a FIFA committee but Sunderland appealed the outcome. The final decision rests with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Even if the CAS conclude that Sunderland must pay up, as a club we have no ownership of him. Neither Inter or Sunderland included Alvarez as part of their squads due to the wrangle over the transfer fee, so he was a free agent when Sampdoria snapped him up.

This story has flared up from time to time and occasionally threatened a conclusion, usually each story originated in the Italian media, who are by and large a dreadful source of factual information.

Lots of Italian websites simply write whatever they heck the feel like and hope for the best. The line most of them have taken over the Alvarez story has been that Sunderland have their money and they want it back.

This latest round of stories either began in The Express or in its direct rival, The Daily Mail, yesterday. The only hint in those stories of the origin of the latest chapter in the sorry tale is a shadowy reference to "sources inside the club".

What is almost certain, however, is that the story appeared again on Italian websites late last week, and is quite probably where the Mail actually got it from.

Admittedly, this saga simply has to reach a conclusion at some point; but with the plethora of faked final chapters which have already run, we’re pretty suspicious.

It was former Evening Chronicle journalist Craig Hope who ran the story in the Mail. Hope has been furiously agitating against Sunderland since the summer – pretty much since his beloved Newcastle were relegated.

We’ve already endured Hope’s hope that Sunderland are rotten in various pieces he has written of late; not least his assertion that a scout leaving meant we were in dreadful disarray; and conclusive proof last week that David Moyes doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Someone needs to put a reign on Craig Hope. He might hurt a horse with all this flailing around.

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