Captain's Blog: Colback Career At Crucial Crossroads

Charlie Crowhurst

Whispers are abound that Jack Colback is starting to see his future away from Sunderland, but could any of us really begrudge him a move?

Sunderland fans have come to expect the unexpected this summer, but I think it would be fair to say that many an eyebrow was still raised this week at the reports that Jack Colback may see his future away from Wearside.

Apparently, despite being generally well-regarded around the club and offered a new contract, the Killingworth-born player has decided to resist all efforts from Sunderland to secure his services for the long term.

I must admit that at first it surprised me too. Colback simply isn't the kind of player to kick up a fuss or go against the grain and he has always appeared very settled at the club. He plays plenty of football, too.

There was also a part of me that just didn't want to believe it. That isn't because I consider Jack Colback to be some kind of world-beating top talent or anything. I just genuinely like the lad. He is consistent, reliable, and it's nice having homegrown local players in the squad, particularly after the powers that be have started to raid the foreign markets so prolifically.

But the more it has sunk in the more I could absolutely understand Colback's position if he did indeed covet a move away from the Stadium of Light.

Right now he is a difficult player to really categorise. He is decent in midfield, useable out wide in an emergency, and generally steady at full back. He does all of them well. Perhaps he does them all too well, because he is dominant in none of them - particularly in the kind of tactics that Paolo Di Canio is expected to introduce.

The Italian is known to favour a 4-4-2 or variant with pace, power, and mobility down the spine and craft and penetration down the flanks. Colback can offer none of those things in any of the vast array of positions he can play.

He doesn't really have the mobility or presence to command the middle of the pitch in a pair. He will get it, pass it, keep it, and be very neat and tidy, but he won't rampage from box to box.

Many people consider his best position to actually be full back. I don't personally, though I can appreciate the argument. He is, without question, a very disciplined stay-at-home full back who tackles well. A fine asset for a backs-to-the-wall grind away from home. A safe pair of hands.

However, is he the kind of athlete who can make the lung-bursting runs up and down the touchline all day offering a semblance of attacking contribution without it coming at the expense of that defensive solidity? You'd have to say that he isn't.

What he can offer, and offer it in abundance, is versatility. One Jack Colback in your squad can save you two or three players elsewhere. He is the Swiss army knife of footballers. A one-stop solution for multiple situations.

One Jack Colback on your bench and you can carry an arsenal of attacking options beside him to make positive changes and change a game, if you have them, of course.

Need to throw an extra body into midfield to try and keep the ball? Jack's the man. Injury at full back? No problem, just throw Colback on. Protecting something and need to get a hold of a rampaging opposition full back? Drop Jack Colback on his toes and ask him to stick with him, he won't let you down.

The problem is, I suppose, is that whilst it may be a coach's dream to have such a player at his disposal, for an ambitious young player the 'utility man' tag tends to weigh your career down as it costs you the chance to nail down a specialist position and really develop your game.

We saw it with Darren Williams who, likeable as he was, never really went on to achieve what he was probably capable of. Kieran Richardson, too, is not the player today that his talent promised having seen his time monoplised by learning new roles when it should have been spent properly polishing one.

At 23-years-old, the time has come for Jack Colback to make a decision on what kind of career he wants to have. He could well be a really nice fit with a Swansea or other possession-intensive side. His game is built for it.

Whether he wants to spend the next two or three years fighting fires or whether he wants to spend them fine-tuning his trade is now a relevant question. If he decides he wants to sign a new contract and stick around, then I think we'd probably all be fairly happy to see him in and around the first team picture at Sunderland.

But if he decides the time has come to seize control of his own destiny and try to forge a different kind of career for himself somewhere then I don't think any of us could really begrudge him it either.

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