Monday 18 December 2017

Sunderland’s sense of entitlement over Colback transfer beggars belief

Jack Colback has joined Newcastle United in a five-year contract
Jack Colback has joined Newcastle United in a five-year contract
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

The ‘bitter taste’ the club feel after Jack Colback’s transfer to neighbours Newcastle demonstrates sour grapes will often overrule logic

After a 15 year association with Sunderland Football Club, Jack Colback was officially presented as a Newcastle United player last week.

The 24 year-old left-sided player, a key player for the club in recent seasons, said the allure of signing for the team he supported as a boy was too difficult to turn down and became the first player since Lionel Pérez in 1998 to transfer directly from Sunderland to their near neighbours on Tyneside.

A move to your closest rivals is never likely to pass without fuss, something the player himself quickly acknowledged.

“The majority of Sunderland fans will hate me for the rest of my life,” the England U-20 international speculated on his arrival at St. James’ Park

So far at least, it has been his former club, rather than their supporters, which have made it an acrimonious departure with a damning response to the move.

“For him to leave the club that has supported him throughout his formative years in such a manner, with no chance for Sunderland to recover any of the significant investment that it has made in him as a player, has left a bitter taste,” the official statement concluded.

Before accepting Sunderland’s stance that they have failed to enjoy any return from their “significant investment”, it is perhaps useful to recap on the facts.

Any financial investment has one of two objectives: to generate income or appreciate in the future and be sold at the higher price.

The latter failed to materialise as Colback’s contract came to an end this summer, but the other point is where the argument isn’t exactly watertight.

A noted youth player at Sunderland, Colback caught the eye of Roy Keane during his tenure at the club. When the Cork man subsequently took over at Ipswich Town, the versatile player followed on loan and duly won their Player of the Year award in 2009.

He returned to Wearside after a second loan spell at Portman Road, quickly becoming an integral part of the team and despite the topsy-turvy nature of life in the North-East, Colback has missed just eight league games in the last three seasons.

Often deployed at left-back, Gus Poyet used him more in his natural midfield role this season and was a consistent performer throughout, which could not be said for many of his colleagues.

One highlight was his goal against the Magpies in the derby demolition in February, a crucial victory as the season unfolded.

Conceding that the move “wasn’t about money” makes the club’s sense of entitlement even more difficult to comprehend; the move had nothing to do with greed and everything to do with burning desire. Lucas Neill and countless others down through the years have taken a different path.

Sunderland added that they “agreed to all of the terms demanded during discussions”, leaving us in no doubt their feelings towards the player. These weren’t contract requests or offers it must be noted, simply demands.

If chairman Ellis Short and his board are so concerned with return-on-investment from their players, Colback is the least of their worries.

A more prudent assessment would be to examine the questionable transfer dealings last season, mainly by the eccentric Paolo Di Canio where just shy of €34m was spent with little reward.

Or even 12 months previous summer where the Black Cats invested more than €10m on striker Danny Graham and midfielder Alfredo N’Diaye. Graham has spent two loan spells away from the Stadium of Light having failed to hit the net since moving to Wearside, while the Senegalese midfielder too has had a couple of temporary deals away from the club, most recently at Real Betis.

Time will tell just how frugal these investments will prove to be.

Understandably Poyet will be disappointed to lose a vital first-team player and the club clearly was under the impression that Colback would sign on the dotted line at the end of the roller-coaster season, but Sunderland will have been acutely aware of the pitfalls of players in their final 12 months of a contract.

For all the players that have gone through the revolving door in recent years at the Stadium of Light and the vast sums of money that have been fritted away by numerous managers, it is only the bitter and foolhardy who would suggest that Jack Colback has not repaid that ‘significant investment’ in his 137 appearances since joining the club as a 10 year-old.

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