Don Hutchison: Too much is made of crossing the Tyne and Wear divide

Jack Colback is an excellent addition for Newcastle United and will find it easier than people say to pull on a black and white shirt

Jack Colback
Jack Colback

I was not short on options during the summer I decided to sign for Sunderland.

Alan Curbishley wanted me at Charlton and Bryan Robson was trying to take me to Middlesbrough as well.

I went to Gordon Strachan’s house in Stratford and he had a unique way of selling Coventry City to me – he told me we’d be in a relegation battle!

However, Gordon had the right idea – he was honest and straightforward and he very nearly persuaded me to sign for Coventry by telling me with two good seasons under my belt he would help me play for a club at the very top of the European game. He’d done the same to Robbie Keane, so it was a convincing sell.

I wanted to go to Sunderland, though.

The contract offer was not as good as the other clubs, but I liked Peter Reid and his coaching staff – it was a club that was built on the right foundations and I just had a feeling they were going places.

The last thing that came into my mind was the rivalry between Sunderland and the club I had been fanatical about when I was growing up – Newcastle United.

I'd spent my own money to watch Newcastle from the terraces when I was training as a forklift truck driver, but football is a business.

As soon as you become a professional you have to adopt a hard-headed attitude and the rivalries and the things you care about when you’re growing up have to be put to one side.

That is football and I’m surprised more players haven’t moved between Newcastle and Sunderland in the last few years.

It’s a fierce, horrible rivalry at times but you underestimate how much focus footballers have when it comes to something like this.

You rise above it, and for Jack Colback he was a Newcastle fan so he will find it easier. He’s one of them rather than someone coming the other way like I was.

We’re a selfish breed really and you have to look out for yourself. When a move is on the table which makes financial sense and brings you on as a footballer you take it and that is what Colback has probably had to do here.

People will mention the Twitter picture of him holding up three fingers after the 3-0. So what? It was a bit of light-hearted mickey-taking. You’re entitled to enjoy winning a game and it shows he cares. Sunderland supporters are going to be annoyed at Colback for moving to Newcastle, but they really need to be annoyed with the directors who have allowed him to leave on a free.

Richard Sellers/PA Wire Jack Colback
Jack Colback

Footballers like Colback need to be treated properly and they had more than a year to get him tied down to a new contract which reflected the fact he was a first-team player and they didn’t do that.

Now he’s walking away for nothing and that will hit Gus Poyet in the pocket. How much would Jack Colback fetch in the open market?

A young, English midfielder who can play in a number of positions is a good asset and Sunderland might have raised £4m or so for him.

That would have gone straight into Gus Poyet’s transfer pot but now he’s walked away for free and Newcastle have picked up a very good player.

You can put a brave face on it as a Sunderland supporter but that is not a good situation – serious questions should be asked, if they haven’t already.

If I was a Sunderland fan I’d want to know why that had happened. Roberto De Fanti was the director of football when the contract offer went in and I think that first contract offer seriously under-valued Colback as a player. That is the sort of thing whch just ruins your relationship with a club.

I had to make a similar call at the end of my Everton career, but in truth it was an easy decision.

I knew a few people would pick up on my allegiances and where I was from and I knew all about the rivalry between the two teams.

Everyone told me it would be difficult for me going back to Newcastle, but I had already made a few controversial moves by then, picking Scotland despite being born in England and playing for both Everton and Liverpool.

As a footballer, it shows a bit of the kind of bravery you need when you’re prepared to swap one rival for another when you know you’re going to get a hard time for it.

I see Colback doing it for Newcastle, and whatever the supporters think, they should be impressed by his determination to play for the club. It takes a bit of bottle to make the decision he’s made.

I was warned at the time I would never be able to set foot in Newcastle again, but that was never the case to be honest.

Most people were relatively good about it and I still went shopping and spent time in town.

We even went out a few times in Newcastle as a group of Sunderland players.

We had minders but we would go out in Newcastle if we wanted to.

I went out when my son was born and we went out for birthdays and the odd time to celebrate.

We’d sit ourselves in the corner so we could keep an eye on what was going on.

You got the odd person who would try and have a go at you, but generally, if you handled it right, you didn’t need to worry about it.

Taking all emotion out of it, Colback is a solid signing by Newcastle. It is not going to push them into the top six on its own, but I like Colback and always have. There is something about him that wouldn’t look out of place in a good Premier League team and I think he adds to Newcastle’s squad.

He’s not spectacular and perhaps not the most talented player available on the market this summer, but he’s comfortable in possession and he can pick a pass.

I would categorise him as a 7/10 in everything he does and he rarely dips below that. Newcastle need more of those kind of players.

There can be a lot of snobbery about players like Colback these days – good, hard-working midfielders who cover a lot of ground but can put their foot on the ball.

Maybe they’ve gone out of fashion, but look at the good teams in the Premier League and they’ve lots of those type of players.

Jordan Henderson does the job brilliantly at Liverpool. My Sunderland team was full of hard workers. Michael Gray, Chris Makin, Jody Craddock, Emerson Thome, Gavin McCann, Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn – it was a team which worked hard week-in, week-out.

Newcastle needed more of that because there were games last season when players seemed to down tools. You won’t get that from Colback.

Also read:

Newcastle United complete Jack Colback signing


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