And right-back admits West Ham preparations are on hold until internationals return
BILLY Jones believes he has improved as a Barclays Premier League player this season after achieving another landmark.
The Baggies’ goalless draw at Stoke saw him surpass the 18 top-flight appearances he made last term – his first-ever season at that level.
And, after returning to Steve Clarke’s starting XI for the last two games following injury to Steven Reid, he is looking to finish the campaign strongly.
“I feel as though I have improved on last year,” said Jones, who celebrates his 26th birthday on Sunday.
“Stoke away was my 19th appearance.
“Last year I made 18 so that’s a positive for me.
“I feel as though I have improved this season again in the Premier League.
“I hope I can play some more games this season and improve again by playing more games next season, and improve season on season.”
Jones admits it was disappointing losing his place in the team to Steven Reid last month for the games against Tottenham, Liverpool, Sunderland and Chelsea.
But he insists he understands Clarke’s decision and is just happy to be part of a successful eighth-placed squad.
“It’s hard but I am very much a squad player so I know the gaffer has got his reasons and I am very much okay about the team,” he added.
“I just hoped we won the next one and fortunately we did.
“We went on a good little run.
"The gaffer has shown this year that he will make changes when he feels the time is right to freshen things up and it’s worked every time.
“As a player you accept his decisions because you know more often than not they’ve worked.
“I accepted his decision and I was happy we went on a won a couple of games after that, then I was happy to come back in and carry that on.
“It’s unfortunate for Reidy because he came in and did well and we got a couple of good wins, including an away win at Anfield.
“It was great to take six points off Liverpool this season.
“We were doing really well, so personally it was nice to come in and carry on that momentum with a good home win against Swansea, with what I thought was one of my better performances this year.
“Then we had a good, hard-earned team point against Stoke and it was nice to get the clean sheet.”
Jones and Reid are two of only nine first-team senior pros training this week, with ten pros away on duty with their countries, and others injured.
And the Baggies' preparations for tomorrow week’s trip to West Ham will not really kick into gear until Wednesday when the internationals begin reporting back to The Hawthorns.
“It’s always a bit weird coming into training but it’s good for the club to see how many internationals we’ve got in the squad,” said Jones.
“It’s just very quiet for a week or ten days.
“You need all the lads here to be doing game-specific stuff with West Ham coming up, but for the lads here it’s about keeping fit and keeping fresh and sharp, so when the lads come back from the internationals we’re ready to go for West Ham away.
“It’s a good chance, with people away, for the development lads to step up and train with us, so they can show the gaffer what they can do, and he can see how they’re progressing.”