GUSTAVO POYET hopes to have more new signings with Sunderland in Portugal this week and one of his earlier recruits thinks the trip will be ideal for team bonding.
Billy Jones was the Black Cats’ first summer target landed when he agreed to move to the Stadium of Light as a free agent and has since been followed by Jordi Gomez, Costel Pantilimon and, last Friday, Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt.
But Poyet is far from finished in the transfer market, with his squad well short of where he would like it to be, and Sunderland are knocking on Liverpool’s door in a bid to take Fabio Borini back to Wearside.
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Borini is back in England after picking up a shoulder injury on tour with the Reds in the United States and the offer of a £14m move to Sunderland remains.
But the Italian’s desire to play Champions League football has prevented the switch from going through, so Sunderland have raised the idea of taking him on loan for a further season.
Atletico Madrid’s Cristian Rodriguez and Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma are high in Poyet’s thinking, while Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson has emerged as an option even though he is being considered by a variety of Premier League clubs including Newcastle.
Van Aanholt, a £1.5m buy from Stamford Bridge, has met up with the squad in Portugal and could figure against Recreativo de Huelva tomorrow night in Albufeira. Sunderland then face CD Nacional on Wednesday before Vitoria Setubal on Saturday.
Jones expects to be involved tomorrow and thinks spending nine days in the Algarve will be perfect for the players to adjust to each other as the new season approaches.
“There’s a great group of lads here already and I feel much more settled than I did when I first signed for West Brom,” said Jones. “Going to Portugal will bring us closer together because we will be together all day and night.
“There will be plenty of team bonding and I already feel quite settled. I played with Adam Johnson at England youth level, so it was nice to see a friendly face when I first arrived for training. We had some good times together at Under-19s and Under-17s. But going to places like Portugal is great to get to know everyone else.”
Jones, 27, spent three years at West Brom after leaving Preston and could have stayed at the Hawthorns but felt it was time for a new challenge. After speaking to Poyet, he says there was only one decision to make.
He said: “It’s a much bigger club up here, the facilities and the fan base that comes with it. The manager spoke to me about how he wants the club to move forward. We believe we are a top half of the table club and where we want to be.
“We all believe we can move up the division. I wasn’t pushed out at West Brom, but there’s nothing more than feeling wanted. Meeting the gaffer here, that was obvious. When he started to talk I realised I was just looking forward to cracking on.”
While those in Poyet’s first team plans are in Portugal, others were left behind and figured for the development squad at Boston on Saturday. Danny Graham, a £5m buy from Swansea 20 months ago, was among them.
Graham, still interesting Championship clubs including Middlesbrough, scored a 54th minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw. He was replaced on 68 minutes and David Moberg Karlsson also played.