Jack Colback has caused a storm in the North East by swapping Sunderland for Newcastle United, but is he what Alan Pardew’s midfield is missing?
Born in Killingworth, Colback grew up as a staunch Newcastle supporter but linked up with rivals Sunderland as a 10-year-old back in 1999. Having developed through their youth system, he made his first team debut in 2008, and aside from two loan spells at Ipswich Town, has been a member of their first team squad ever since.
The 24-year-old, though, was out of contract at the Stadium of Light this summer, and despite the Black Cats being eager to retain his services, as soon as he heard of interest from his beloved Magpies there was only ever going to be one winner. And so, on Monday afternoon, he confirmed he had signed for his boyhood idols.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” he told the official club website. “To come to the team I supported as a boy, my hometown team, will be really special for me. It was an opportunity I couldn’t let slip. I hope they [Sunderland fans] can understand. Now I can’t wait to pull on the black and white shirt at St. James’ Park for the first time.”
Unfortunately for Colback, his wish for understanding from Wearside has fallen on deaf ears. It didn’t take long for the Stadium of Light club to respond to losing the player to their fierce rivals on a free transfer, and released a statement which indicated they were under the impression the midfielder had agreed to sign a new contract.
“We gave him the opportunity to become a professional footballer and are therefore extremely disappointed in the events that have led to his departure from the club,” read the statement. “This wasn’t about money – the club agreed to all of the terms demanded of us during discussions and we were always led to believe that Jack wanted to stay with us.
“At his and his representatives’ request, final talks were put on hold until the club secured its top flight status. To our dismay however, we were subsequently never given the chance to negotiate with him to stay. For him to then leave the club that has supported him throughout his formative years in such a manner, with no chance for Sunderland to recover any of the significant investment it has made in him as a player, has left a bitter taste.”
A steady if unspectacular player, Colback should be a decent acquisition to Alan Pardew’s options. However, even Mike Ashley and co will know the Newcastle fans will demand a lot more. They still need to replace Yohan Cabaye, whose January departure to Paris St Germain was the catalyst for their dismal second half to last season, and there is a general consensus that to do so will cost much of the £25million they recouped from his sale.
Although the 28-year-old didn’t register a Ligue 1 goal following his move to the capital, he did score seven times in the Premier League prior to his departure. Indeed, that return was enough to ensure he ended the campaign as Newcastle’s top goalscorer. Other goals from midfield came from Moussa Sissoko (three) and Vurnon Anita notched once, whilst even Hatem Ben Arfa, a more advanced option, only registered three times.
Colback’s introduction is not going to see a rapid increase where goals from midfield are concerned: of the 113 league games he played for Sunderland, he has only scored four goals – and three of them came last season, one of which famously at St James Park. So whilst he may be a good addition and Newcastle fans can feel pleased by his arrival, it is nowhere near enough if they are to progress from the disappointment of last term.