BOTH Nathan Luscombe and Peter Hartley have tipped Jack Colback to fill the void left by Jordan Henderson as the star graduate of Sunderland’s academy.
The Hartlepool United duo played alongside Colback and Henderson in the Sunderland second string side which claimed the Premier Reserve League (North) and Central League Cup in 2008-09.
While Henderson impressed for that team, it was Colback who shone in the centre of the park.
The 21-year-old finally bridged the gap to the first-team last season after starting the final six games for Steve Bruce’s injury-hit side.
And with Henderson now plying his trade at Anfield after his £19m move to Liverpool, both Hartley and Luscombe hope Colback can be a Premier League regular.
Luscombe said: “You get some lads at 15 who play like a house on fire. Jordan wasn’t like that and it was the same with Martyn Waghorn.
“But look at what a year or two can do for you. I am privileged to have played with lads like that.
“I think Jack will be the next big thing to come through though.
“He is grounded because he has had to work hard. He is just a battler and that is what Steve Bruce likes.”
Hartley added: “I’ll be honest and say I never thought Jordan would be a £20m player.
“When Jack Colback used to play, everyone saw in him similarities with Paul Scholes although that was partly the ginger hair! But he had great ability and we thought he’d be the one who’d push through into the first team.
“I think he still will. He has got the ability to play at the highest level, although Jordan got his move first and fair play to him.
“But Jack has earned the right after playing at Ipswich for a year-and-a-half and has been patient enough to wait for his chance.”