Right-back claims 'up to speed' Malmo will prove stiff opposition
BILLY Jones reckons Albion will undergo a pre-season baptism of fire when they kick off their Scandinavian tour against Malmo this evening (ko 7pm local time/6pm BST).
There will undoubtedly be a gulf in match fitness as the Baggies play two teams in a week who have already kicked off their league campaigns.
Steve Clarke's first official match in charge will pit his troops against a Malmo side embroiled in a top-flight title fight, with the Swedish giants currently second after 15 games.
Next up will be crack Danish outfit Copenhagen next Wednesday, who have just won their opening Supaliga fixture.
Albion's solitary pre-season action was a behind-closed-doors friendly against Kidderminster last Saturday when a mixture of senior and young pros got 45 minutes under their belts.
And Jones reckons the fact both Scandinavian opponents already have serious game time in the tank means the Baggies will have to be on their mettle.
"The teams we are playing have already begun their seasons so these two games will be very competitive," said the right-back.
"They will be very fit and it will be a good test for us because they will already be up to speed."
Albion arrived in Malmo on Tuesday evening and Jones says the coaching staff and squad have settled quickly into their temporary training base.
"I'm sure that this trip will be just as successful as last season's time in America," he added.
"The club's staff research these things quite thoroughly and they obviously thought this would be a good destination for us."
Last season was Jones' first-ever in the Barclays Premier League and he is hoping the hard graft the players are currently putting in will pay dividends as they aim to avoid a repeat of last term's three-game losing start.
"Pre-season trips are always good because they give you a chance to get to know new players and, in this instance, it is allowing us to get to know the new gaffer more," added the ex-Preston man.
"I'm sure it will be a successful trip and a good pre-season as a whole so that, when the first game of the season comes around, we'll hopefully get off to a better start than what we did last year."