AFTER posing for the customary new signing photograph in front of the players’ tunnel yesterday, Jack Colback took centre stage in one of the media suite’s interview rooms at St James’ Park.
As he dealt with the questions about his controversial switch from Sunderland to Newcastle United, he was relaxed, excited and already at home in his new surroundings.
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As much as most fans of a Wearside persuasion will not like it, and there will be those on Tyneside reluctant to accept a former Black Cat too, the 24-year-old brought up in a Newcastle supporting family in Killingworth has waited for this day to arrive.
When Colback was a young schoolboy, before he was attached to Sunderland’s academy, he had already been in the stands at St James’ to watch Kevin Keegan’s entertainers with his father, John-Paul.
“Faustino Asprilla was my favourite player, but he wasn’t really my style! I’m a bit different to that,” said Colback, smiling and extremely satisfied to be Alan Pardew’s second signing of the summer following last week’s arrival of Spaniard Ayoze Perez.
“I was born a Newcastle fan really, having been born around here. The majority of my family were Newcastle fans. My parents bought me the shirt. I remember getting the shirts and buzzing over the new one coming out.
“My earliest memories were the Keegan years and the relative success they had then. I remember the 90s when they beat Man U (in the Premier League 5-0) and Barcelona in the Champions League. Those are the sort of nights I want to be a part of, although I’m not saying I expect us to be in the Champions League soon.
“I want to be able to play in front of 52,000 every week, getting to cup finals and stuff like that. I want to be a success here and part of a successful team. Bring successful times back to this club.”
Despite being brought up on North Tyneside, he made the decision to join Sunderland’s academy at the age of ten after impressing for the reputable Cramlington Juniors.
“My dad was very level headed and he would never shout and bawl on the sidelines when I was eight or nine to tell me to do this or that better,” said Colback. “He has always supported me, even when I signed for Sunderland. He has always supported me rather than the team I played for. It will be good for all of my family to see me walk out in a Newcastle shirt.”
When he does that at the start of next season he will hope to repeat the achievements of the last midfielder to leave Sunderland for Newcastle. Paul Bracewell scored on his Magpies debut in a 3-2 win over Southend United on August 15, 1992.
“If it happens where I can score on my first appearance then that would be ideal,” said Colback. “A lot will be said about me leaving Sunderland, but for me as a professional I just have to concentrate on my football and let everyone else talk.
“I would like to win the Newcastle fans over sooner rather than later, scoring might help! I just want a good start to the season, win games and look more positive.”
Colback wanted to get things finalised and confirmed at the earliest opportunity on returning from honeymoon. There had been enough speculation surrounding his future, with speculated interest from other Premier League clubs. The chance to remain in the North-East proved just perfect for the newlywed.
“I will get to training 15 minutes earlier every morning as well, I can have an extra 15 in bed,” joked Colback, after signing a long-term deal at Newcastle. “It will be a new environment, a new team. Moving clubs is something that is part and parcel of football. It is something I am excited about and it’s the next chapter in my life, my family’s life.
“It’s been quite a hectic summer, getting married was stressful enough. There has been a lot of speculation about what would happen. I made my choice to come here and it’s a huge opportunity to come to a massive team like Newcastle, the team I supported. It was one I could not let go of.”
With pre-season training set to start in early July before the tour of New Zealand and Australia, it will not be long before Colback makes his Premier League debut for Newcastle – and a guaranteed hostile reception in the Tyne-Wear derbies will be guaranteed.
“I am pretty sure I will not be going down well around Sunderland now if my name gets brought up in conversation with Sunderland fans,” he said. “That’s the decision I have made. I have to live with that.
“Newcastle was the best footballing move on the table for me. I have decided to take that. You have thoughts about swapping the two rivals, which is clearly not ideal, but it was a decision I felt I had to make.
“There will even be a minority of Newcastle fans I will have to win over and they might not take to me because I have those Sunderland connections. All I can do is play football and do what I do – and hopefully be a success here at St James’ Park.”