FEW players have crossed the Tyne-Wear divide over the past two decades.
It’s not a big move in terms of distance, but in every other way transfers between Newcastle United and Sunderland are a kind of a big deal, not least for the players themselves.
However, Jack Colback, set to make his competitive debut against Manchester City at St James’s Park on Sunday, is a little different to his predecessors.
The 24-year-old, signed on a free transfer after the expiry of his contract, grew up on Tyneside supporting Newcastle before joining Sunderland’s Academy, where he prospered and eventually graduated to the first team.
The rest, including a goal in last season’s Tyne-Wear derby, is history. Somewhere in the Colback household, there will be the old black and white tops he wore as a youngster, complete with the names of his heroes on the back.
Now the Killingworth-born player has his own name on the back of a United jersey, and he will pull on the iconic shirt for the first time as a player against City.
“My first memories of football were watching Newcastle,” Colback said.
“I had all the strips, and I was buzzing when the new strips came out. I would get the name of my favourite players on the back.
“I supported them as a boy, but I had the opportunity to play for a professional team. Just because that was across the water, only 15 miles away, I couldn’t let that opportunity slip.
“It was a chance to go to a Premier League team as a young lad.
“It put me in the position I’m in now of being able to play Premier League football.
“My family, who are also Newcastle supporters, were never going to say ‘don’t do that’, because that was the opportunity on the table, and I had to take it.”
Colback took the opportunity with both hands.
And United manager Pardew is confident that Colback, a quietly-effective holding midfielder who is also capable of pushing on and making an impact in the final third of the pitch, will seize the chance of a lifetime at St James’s Park.
Colback, level-headed and unassuming off the pitch, has quietly gone about his business on the field in pre-season.
The former England Under-20 international, given set-piece duties in pre-season, has been neat and tidy in possession front of Pardew’s back four, and he’s been energetic without the ball.
Colback, certainly, would brought something to the club’s midfield in the wake of Yohan Cabaye’s January sale last term when Newcastle were all too often listless and lifeless.
And he seems certain to start against City in the absence of injured midfielder Cheik Tiote.
For his part, Colback feels, in joining his boyhood club, he has made the right career move, believing he can improve as a player while improving the team he has joined.
“I think I’ve got a lot to improve on as a player,” said Colback, who is hopeful United can challenge for a European place over the coming nine months.
“I can show the Newcastle fans that I’m good enough to be here.
“Hopefully, I’ll have a good season and good career as a Newcastle player.”