JACK COLBACK has backed pal Martyn Waghorn to establish himself in the Championship, as he prepares to lock horns with his fellow Sunderland academy graduate.
Colback and Waghorn were part of the same crop of Sunderland youngsters who came through the ranks at the Academy of Light and led the Black Cats to the reserve league title in 2009.
But while Colback has gone on to establish himself as a first-team regular at the Stadium of Light, Waghorn has struggled for regular football since leaving Sunderland in a £3million move to Leicester two years ago.
South Shields-born striker Waghorn has started just 13 times for the Foxes and was farmed out on loan to Hull City last season, while Hartlepool United were interested in the 22-year-old earlier this summer.
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But Waghorn has featured in four games during Leicester’s pre-season and is expected to play some part against his former club tomorrow, in Sunderland’s final friendly encounter before the Premier League gets underway.
Colback said: “It will be good to see Waggy, obviously I saw him through the summer and stuff, but it will be good to play against him. Hopefully he can get a run-out.
“I see him quite often, obviously it’s hard with him being down there, but we stay close friends.
“A couple of injuries have set him back a bit. He’s got going, but then he’s got injured again.
“Everyone knows the qualities of Waggy though and he just needs that run in the team where he can score goals.
“It will be another tough game against Leicester. They’re a strong outfit who will be looking to get promoted this season.
“It’s a challenge for us, but we’ll be looking to finish off our pre-season with a win.”
Sunderland have stayed and trained on the outskirts of Derby since Wednesday’s draw with the Rams – a display that at least showed an improvement from the previous two friendly defeats to Hartlepool and Helsingborgs.
But Martin O’Neill’s side are beginning to turn their attention to the Premier League curtain raiser at Arsenal, with just eight days until the trip to the Emirates.
Midfielder Colback added: “It was better at Derby than in Sweden and against Hartlepool. We looked a bit sharper and that’s going to come with the games you play.
We’ve only got one left now and by the time the season comes around, the lads’ fitness will be back and we’ll be forming a bond on the pitch.
“Obviously the Arsenal game’s in the back of your mind, but we haven’t discussed it or anything.
“After tomorrow’s game, we’ll start to focus on it because it’s back into the big league and a game we’ll be wanting to do well in.
“It’s a tough start, but it’s the Premier League, there’s going to be tough games.
“We’ll go out there with the same confidence we showed against the big teams last year.”