I must admit, it has been great to see the real Billy Jones step forth into the fight and be one of the key players in this season’s reversal of fortunes.
Commanding in defence and tenacious across the entire pitch, Jones has been a real hero so far this campaign, and has provided a sense of calm stability that Javier Manquillo just isn’t able to offer us right now.
However, part of Jones’ success must certainly be credited to the immense work-rate and cover provided to him by Duncan Watmore. This week’s news that young Dunc will most likely miss the rest of the season with a serious knee injury is a massive loss, especially when you consider the amount of determination and energy that Watmore brought to the side not just in attack, but in defence too.
Couple the loss of Watmore with the fact that Billy Jones will be up against the pace of either Jefferson Montero or Wayne Routledge, and there are a few question marks that will be lingering around David Moyes' plans for the weekend.
If anything, this weekend offers Billy Jones the opportunity to truly demonstrate his role in the club’s recent upswing in fortune. Watmore’s absence may be a disappointing one, yet if Billy Jones can continue to reinforce his newly acquired White Cafu nickname with another sterling display, then fans can perhaps let out a little sigh of relief that Watmore’s extended absence will not upset the harmony of the team too much.
Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj, Sebastian Larsson and Wahbi Khazri are all names that have been thrown into the ring as potential replacements on the right hand side of the Sunderland front three, and it’s a certainty that David Moyes - as well as Billy Jones - will be hoping that one of the aforementioned triumvirate can emulate the impressiveness of Watmore’s all around displays of late.
Question marks linger over Borini’s fitness after only recently returning to training from a lengthy lay-off himself while Januzaj’s work-rate and defensive capabilities are still under much scrutiny. Khazri would seem like the natural choice in the right forward berth, though don’t be surprised to see Sebastian Larsson fill the void with his own renowned brand of tenacity and grit.
Another option available to Moyes is to ask Didier Ndong to sit a little deeper and offer more cover to the right hand side of Sunderland’s improving defence - much in the same way that Paddy McNair was tasked with providing cover for the marauding Van Aanholt against Hull before he too was struck by a serious knee injury of his own.
David Moyes clearly has some decisions to make for this weekend’s trip to Swansea; however, a cursory glance at the options available to the Scotsman must surely leave Sunderland fans hopeful that an adequate replacement can be drafted in to help provide some cover for the much improved Billy Jones.
It’s an important game this weekend against a struggling Swansea side that have shipped 17 goals in their last 5 games.
Here’s hoping Billy Jones and the lads can bring three crucial points back to Wearside just in time for the onset of the fixture list’s silly season.
What do you think about how Billy Jones has performed for Sunderland recently? Do you feel that he'll be massively affected by the loss of Duncan Watmore ahead of him on the right wing? Leave us a comment below - we'd love to hear from you.