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Jun 5, 2014

Fans split as Colback set to cross Wear/Tyne divide

Jack Colback scored in the 95th minute to earn Sunderland a 2-2 draw at Cardiff City.
Jack Colback is set to make a move to Newcastle, but will Toon fans accept the former Sunderland man?

Newcastle look set to conclude their first permanent signing in some 18 months with news that Jack Colback is to put pen to paper on a Bosman free transfer with the club when he returns from holiday early next week.

Colback hails from Killingworth, only six miles from St James' Park, and was a Newcastle supporter as a child but has spent most of his professional career to date playing for Newcastle's bitter local rivals, Sunderland.

Fans are split over the signing. Many don't want Colback anywhere near the club after his provocative behaviour in and around a couple of recent derby games. His misdemeanours include shushing the Gallowgate End crowd as Sunderland beat Newcastle 3-0 last season, as well as later signalling the '3' in a social media message.

Others can see past that but aren't convinced of Colback's quality, arguing that he looked mediocre in a very poor Sunderland team. Few are pleased by the signing, though at 24 years of age and commanding no transfer fee, he fits the club's transfer policy perfectly.

Personally, Colback has never stood out to me. Sure, he's a tidy footballer who retains possession well in the middle of the park despite his frail stature, but will he add to what Newcastle already have? Since Yohan Cabaye's 18 million-pound move to Paris in January, Newcastle have badly lacked a creative spark in the middle of the field. Will Colback provide that? His stats suggest not, having contributed only three goals and two assists last season. I can't help but think that he is a Geordie version of Vurnon Anita -- a player who has never overly convinced manager Alan Pardew.

Whatever the supporters' preconceptions are, I really hope they give Colback a chance to succeed. Forget whom he played for and what he did -- he's a young lad and has just walked away from Wearside to play for his hometown club, supposedly turning his back on a mega-pay offer from West Ham in the process. Surely that has earned him some time and patience?

It would also be great to see a local lad who didn't cost a penny go on to be a success, even better when you consider from whom Newcastle are taking him.

He is an improvement on departing midfielder Dan Gosling, and it is also refreshing to see a young English player signed. I'm a big fan of Newcastle's French contingent but always take pleasure in seeing local boys progress and play their part.

Colback will be the first player to move between the clubs since Lee Clark left Newcastle for Wearside back in 1997. I remember seeing Clarky scoring a goal for the mackems and running into the crowd to celebrate. Though he redeemed himself with the 'SMB' T-shirt he wore at Wembley.

Back in February, Sunderland boss Gus Poyet called on England manager Roy Hodgson to take a look at Colback for England. Let's hope he realises those international ambitions through his performances in a black-and-white shirt.