After Nottingham Forest secured the services of Jack Colback on loan until the end of the season on transfer deadline day, Newcastle United fan Dan Robinson gives an insight into his career at the Magpies - and what he can bring to the Reds
“Jack Passback” was one of the less complimentary comments below the tweet from Nottingham Forest’s official account that Jack Colback had signed for the club on loan.
Short and pointed, it came from a Newcastle United fan and sums up what a contingent of the St James’ Park crowd have thought for a while now.
Many had grown frustrated at his failure to take the game by the scruff of its neck and try to unlock defences.
Instead of looking up the field for a positive pass, he would go sideways or backwards.
But that unfortunate nickname is not the main one that has followed him around – that would be the “Ginger Pirlo”, a surely tongue-in-cheek remark from Roy Hodgson when he called up the flame-haired midfielder to the England squad in 2014. He never won his first cap, however.
Pirlo he most certainly isn’t – and never has or will be anywhere close to that level – but in that 2014-15 season, his first at his hometown club Newcastle after moving on a free transfer from arch-nemesis Sunderland, he was excellent at times.
His role was never to look for those “Hollywood passes” or be the creative spark in the team, but he became synonymous with neat and tidy football , breaking up play and almost always finding his man.
Some Magpies fans may have forgotten this, but there were times when he was spoken about as a future captain – although that was mainly because he was a Geordie and surrounded by stroppy players who were clearly using the club as a stepping stone as per Mike Ashley's transfer policy.
But since that 2014/15 season, Colback has gone backwards and by the end had become a bit of a scapegoat.
Colback wasn’t helped by the fact he often played alongside Cheick Tiote or Vurnon Anita in midfield – both similarly defensive-minded players – which unfairly put attacking hopes on his shoulders.
But it’s also inexcusable that, other than his first season when he bagged a respectable four goals, he has only scored once since then.
Last season, in the Championship, was supposed to be his chance to find some form again and cement his place in the team.
He was often rotated with Isaac Hayden, a young midfielder signed from Arsenal, to play alongside Jonjo Shelvey but by the end it was clear that Hayden was favoured by Rafael Benitez.
Over the summer, the manager told him his days were numbered as Mikel Merino was signed, Mohammed Diame brought into a deeper midfield role and even the previously exiled Henri Saivet ahead in the queue.
Newspaper reports suggested Colback had a fall-out with Benitez over being told to train with the reserves in the summer as the Spaniard focused all attention on preparing his favoured team for the upcoming campaign.
But Colback reportedly turned down moves to Wolves and Aston Villa as he didn’t want to leave his native North East – despite the fact there’s only four professional clubs in the region and Newcastle didn’t want him, he’d burned bridges with Sunderland by leaving for their arch rivals on a Bosman, Middlesbrough didn’t show any interest and Hartlepool are in the National League.
He’s never even had a sniff of the bench this season in the cups or league and it was imperative for his career that he got a move.
At 28, there’s plenty of time for him to get back on track and prove why he was once considered a potential England international and win a permanent move in the summer.