The enigma that is Jack Colback

Jack Colback’s stint as a Newcastle United player has been over for a long time, but it will finally be confirmed at the end of June when his contract expires.

A tenacious ball-winning midfielder, the now 30-year-old joined from rivals Sunderland in the summer of 2014 on a six-year deal.

In hindsight, this contract length seems to have been excessive for a player who last appeared for the Magpies back in 2017, but the situation is very different to when he first joined.


Crossing the divide

Colback became the first player to swap Wearside for Tyneside in a permanent deal since Lionel Perez in 1998.

The caveat to that deal, and the reason you may not remember it, is that Perez was fourth choice and never played a competitive game for the Toon.

Colback looked to endear himself to the Geordie faithful by revealing that he was in-fact a Newcastle fan, despite playing 135 times for their bitter neighbours.

Upon joining, he said: “To come to the team I supported as a boy, my hometown team, will be really special for me.”

The deal was further soured from the Sunderland perspective as he was leaving on a free transfer, and as he’d turned 24, the club weren’t entitled to any compensation.

A run of four wins from their last five games had seen Gus Poyet’s Black Cats stay up by five points, but Newcastle were a more attractive proposition after their 10th placed finish.


International recognition

Alan Pardew’s side got off to an indifferent start at the beginning of the 2014/15 season with a home defeat to Manchester City followed by a goalless draw at Aston Villa.

Colback played the entirety of both games and combined with his form at the tail end of last season, was called up by Roy Hodgson to the England squad for games against Norway and Switzerland.

These were qualifiers for Euro 2016 on the back of a dismal showing at the 2014 World Cup, where England finished bottom of their group having failed to win a game.

But heartbreakingly for the one-time u20 international, a nasty calf injury meant he had to withdraw from the squad and he was never given the opportunity to earn a full cap.


Shelvey’s accolade

Domestically Colback went on to feature 38 times that season, and a further 30 appearances followed the season after as Newcastle were relegated to the Championship.

One shining light in that dismal campaign had been the arrival of Jonjo Shelvey in the January.

The 28-year-old has featured with some of the world’s best players in his time playing for Liverpool and England, so it may come as a surprise that he named Colback as one of the best midfielders he’s played with.

Speaking on the ‘In The Box’ podcast recently, Shelvey was asked to name the best XI he could from the players he’s played with in his career.

Putting Colback in a midfield three alongside Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho, Shelvey said: “The reason why I put Jack in is we’ve never lost a game together.

“If he wasn’t playing or I wasn’t playing we’d come in on the Friday and say to each other ‘should we go knock on the gaffa’s door and say we’ve never lost together’?

“He’s a top player and he probably doesn’t get the recognition that he’s got; I mean he’s played over like 300 games in the Premiership.”

What went wrong?

Shelvey was later drawn on the fall-out between Colback and then manager Rafa Benitez following the club’s promotion back to the Premier League.

“There was a reason that it happened which you can’t really go into because it was probably to do with Rafa, Rafa sort of killed him to be honest.”

In the summer of 2017 it seems as though Benitez wanted to get the fiery midfielder off the wage bill.

Rumoured to be on £35,000-a-week and taking up a valuable place in the 25-man squad, it is understandable why the manager wanted to use these resources elsewhere.

However, Colback was settled in the north-east and was unwilling to move away.

What then unfolded was a bleak period up to this current day, with two separate loan moves to Nottingham Forest breaking up a period of training with the club’s u23 squad or being left out of the first team’s 25-man squad altogether.

It’s clear that there’s still bad blood, with Colback saying that he felt he got a “lack of respect” from the Spaniard who treated him “like a number, more than a human being.”


Further set-backs

After playing for an hour in Newcastle first pre-season game last summer, a 4-0 defeat against Wolves, Colback was retained for the second game in China against West Ham.

This was Steve Bruce’s first game in charge after replacing Benitez, and it ended in a 1-0 win.

The flame-haired midfielder went on to play once more in pre-season, a defeat at Preston, and it was thought that he was still going to be part of Bruce’s plans.

However, late moves for Emil Krafth and Andy Carroll meant that Colback, along with fellow castaway Henri Saviet, was forced out of the Premier League squad.

It would have been conceivable for Colback to sit on his contract, but he made a point of coming in and performing to the best of his ability.


Professionalism is key

For Shelvey, this was a major factor in his admiration for him: “He’s still got a contract at Newcastle and he comes in and trains and he’s probably near enough the best trainer.

“When he went to Forest, his missus and kids moved to Forest so he gets a train to Newcastle every morning from Nottingham and that’s dedication because he could just sack it off and say, ‘No, I’m not doing that’ and I don’t think the club are that bothered about him turning up for training.

“He still comes in and puts it in every day and I think hats off to him.”

Colback was set to feature in the FA Cup, where he was still eligible, against Rochdale at the turn of the year, but he picked up a knee injury.

This further set-back means the last time Colback played a game of football is way back on 4th April 2019, in a 2-0 defeat for Forest at Sheffield United.

By the time he returns for the 2020/21 season, whenever that will be, and at whatever club he may be at, they’ll have a player with a yearning desire to prove a point – and a lot of time to catch up on.

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