Continuing a summer of debate, we bring you another of the well received (so far) feature, Make Your Case, where two writers for this very site go head to head on a topic of their choosing and leave you the reader to decide a winner.
Having debated the future of Grant Holt and the pro's and con's of Phil Bardsley in general, this week Michael Graham and Simon Walsh go head to head over two of the best youngsters to come through the ranks of Sunderland in the past twenty odd years.
Michael Graham: The Case For Jordan Henderson
I am sure I am on a hiding to nothing here in championing an opposition player against one of our own, especially when he wasn't especially popular with the Stadium of Light faithful when he was here, but realistically Jordan Henderson's achievements place him streets ahead of Jack Colback for the moment.
There seems to be a school of thought that Henderson is little more than an athlete who is fortunate enough to have been brought through an antiquated English system that rewards athleticism over ability. I find that a difficult argument to swallow. If Liverpool - and the other top clubs who frequently took an interest in the player when he was plying his trade in the North East - wanted an athlete, they could have got a much more impressive physical specimen for their £20m.
The fact of the matter is that Jordan Henderson is much more than a mere athlete. He has that to his game, admittedly, but so what? Why should he be criticised for it? Was Alan Shearer criticised for the strength and power upon which his goalscoring prowess was largely built? Has Steven Gerrard's tall frame, domineering stride, and huge energy levels ever been held against him? Athleticism is an asset in the modern game whether we want to accept it or not, and Henderson has it.
It isn't all that he has, though. He has achieved too much to be able to dismiss his talent as a footballer. You don't amass over 100 games in the Premier League before your 22nd birthday if you can't play football, for a start, and playing for England whilst being a Sunderland player was tough enough for the likes of Darren Bent and Kevin Phillips to achieve, never mind a young player who had little discernible profile at that time.
I am the first to admit that he has weaknesses in his game. I just struggle to understand why those weaknesses are used to define Jordan Henderson more often than anyone else. I find it a curiosity in this country that we prattle on and on about our supposed inability to produce technically sound players who can keep the ball whilst favouring physical strength, and then a player like Henderson comes along and the same people say 'no good - can't tackle'. It is a reasonable criticism of him but it shouldn't be a defining one. Show me a player that has no weaknesses and I'll show you a player the like of which comes along just once in a generation.
I am a big fan of Jack Colback, and the very fact that we are having this debate is to the enormous credit of the academy staff who have nurtured them both. But if Jack Colback had not benefited from the massive injection of confidence and more stringent tactical preparation that Martin O'Neill brought to the club in December, would we even be having this discussion? Who is to say that Henderson wouldn't have enjoyed a similar burst of form?
Ultimately, almost everything that is on Jack Colback's list of goals - becoming a Premier League regular, being capped by England, coming to the attention of the biggest clubs in the land, and contesting cup finals - all of them have already been achieved by Jordan Henderson pretty much before Jack Colback had even completed his breakthrough Premier League season.
It is a huge shame that we didn't get the chance to see them develop as a pair at the heart of the Sunderland midfield, as I suspect they would have been quite special when all was said and done. Colback may be a late bloomer and surpass Henderson's achievements. I certainly hope he does. As of right now, though, and looking at it with your objectivity in tact, at the very least you would have to give Henderson the benefit of the doubt.
Simon Walsh: The Case For Jack Colback
This is a difficult one, I must admit. I like Jordan Henderson as much as the next guy but overall, pitting one against the other, you have to say Jack Colback is the better prospect.
While Henderson is a good prospect, Colback is already there. Anyone who has seen him play can't help but notice he plays with a maturity beyond his years and looks every inch the seasoned professional despite only being 22-years old. The same can't be said of Henderson, who while may have potential, that's all it is at the moment. It could never come. Colback is already fulfilling and exceeding his own potential, becoming one of the first names on the team sheet ahead of more experienced and more expensive options.
Indeed Colback is a fine player. You can count on one hand the amount of misplaced passes from Colback over the last year or so, while he's also been an essential part of the team to keep the ball moving in midfield like no other player in our team can. Lee Cattermole can be wasteful and often suspended. Craig Gardner the same without the suspensions, and as for David Vaughan, Colback does it all better, quicker and is younger.
You'll not catch Colback making the highlight reels with "Hollywood" passes or 10-15 goals a season, in fact goals are possibly his one weakness, but to have a hypothetical argument - Henderson's not a very good tackler... "But that's not his game!"... Perhaps goals aren't in Colback's. It wasn't in the game of Dider Deschamps or Claude Makelele either, and it didn't stop them being fine players.
he just keeps things moving. Solid in the tackle, a good eye for a pass, and at 22-years old is only a few goals away from being the complete midfield player. Currently it could be argued one of the finest "mediano's" in the English game, and it's little wonder that bigger clubs are starting to notice, if you believe the earlier article son Sky Tyne & Wear a month or so ago where it was claimed a "Champions League club" were sniffing around him.
The one argument which some might think holds water for Henderson over Colback would be his list of achievements. Playing for England, winning the Carling Cup and so forth. Good for him, but achievements aren't always a sign a of quality. Look at Worlc Cup winner, Stephane Guivarc'h or Champions League winner Djimi Traore. Steve Bruce, for all his faults as a manager, was an outstanding defender - never capped by England. Leo Messi - never won an international tournament. It's not the be all and end all.
Colback may not have done any of the things Henderson has, yet, I've every faith that over the next year or two his continued exceptional play won't go unnoticed for much longer.
Henderson still lacks definition as to what he is, not a slight on him, as I do think it will come for him eventually, Colback is still way ahead of him. Henderson has a showy-ness which gets noticed a little more, but Colback has the quality. A footballer's footballer, and one who knowledgeable fans will know is a cut above his former youth team colleague in every department.
Compelling arguments from both side's I'm sure you'll agree, but who's side are you on? Cast your vote now!