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Captain's Blog: Cats Must Resist Colback Temptation

Captains Blog this week concerns Jack Colback.
Captains Blog this week concerns Jack Colback.

With Kieran Richardson reported to favour seeking challenges elsewhere, a familiar debate has engulfed Wearside. What are we going to do about the left back position?

In truth, it seems the debate never really ended. I don't think there were many out there who ever truly saw Richardson as anything other than a stop-gap solution. My own personal view is that prevalent opinion is very harsh on the player, but it would be remiss of me to try and deny that it exists.

Furthermore, it seems it may have been an opinion that Martin O'Neill shared considering his first foray into the transfer market as Sunderland manager was to bring former England left back Wayne Bridge to the Stadium of Light.

So the question crops up once again. Just like it has seemingly every summer since George McCartney originally departed for West Ham United back in the summer of 2006. One thing we have learned in that time is that left backs don't come cheap and are not all that easy to find.

Some argue, however, that the answer lies right beneath the club's nose. Phil Bardsley remains an option, of course, having won the Player of the Season award in 2010/11 playing prominently in the position, but the really interesting case to consider is Jack Colback.

The question of whether Colback's Sunderland future should lie at left back has been one which has often been asked since he impressed in the position during an injury crisis last season. Martin O'Neill has already nailed his colours to the mast, stating back in May that he 'would rather see Jack play in midfield', though that was before the uncertainty surrounding Kieran Richardson's future.

The argument for converting him to full back and developing him in the role is one that does have merit, however.

After all, the Sunderland squad is heavy on midfield strength, with the likes of Lee Cattermole, Craig Gardner, David Vaughan, David Meyler, and potentially Seb Larsson all competing with Colback for a central midfield berth. They are all a quite similar kind of player too in the sense that they provide little forward thrust yet are capable of providing the back four with good protection.

So a suggestion that the Sunderland midfield could absorb the loss of Colback considerably more easily than the defence could absorb the lack of a good quality left back is certainly not an unreasonable one.

Neither would it be unreasonable to suggest he has the ability to shine in the position. His defending found a big fan in Matt Kilgallon who last season claimed Colback was a 'top drawer' defender who was 'always in the right position at the right time as far as the centre-half is concerned'.

In the modern game in which full backs probably spend more time on the ball than anyone else on the pitch and are chiefly responsible for supplying the ball into midfield, having a player of Colback's composure and quality in possession must be a very real temptation for the Sunderland management.

It is a temptation that they must resist, though.

Don't get me wrong, I think Colback could do very well at full back. I never feel even the merest flutter of nerves when I see him line-up there. But the question is not how much you would be gaining at left back in the here and now, but rather how much you would be losing in midfield a few years down the line.

Right now, Colback isn't quite there. He doesn't dominate games or stamp his authority upon them. He is neat and tidy, and capable of the occasional moment of outrageous quality such as his pass for Nicklas Bendtner against Bolton, but he isn't the archetypal midfield general everyone is looking for.

But considering he has only just completed his breakout season, he really doesn't look too far away from it. There are no guarantees that he has that next level in him, admittedly, but continuing his development in his natural position can only help him find it if it is.

I suppose it comes down to how much you want to gamble. Commit to Colback's development as a central midfield player and hope he matures into a genuine force in that position, or play it safe gaining a good quality left back but at the cost of stifling his potential in midfield.

The seemingly incessant left back issue has rumbled on for that long now that you begin to wonder whether there actually is an answer to it out there. There must be, somewhere. I just hope that Jack Colback isn't it as I personally can't help but feel it would be a dreadful waste.


In which position do you see jack Colback's Sunderland future? Let us know in the comments box and cast your vote in our poll.

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