JACK Colback has been told to have more confidence in his ability by a man who has plenty.
Manager Martin O’Neill is an unashamed fan of the Sunderland midfielder and wishes Colback realised just how good he is.
The 22-year-old performed brilliantly in the absence of Lee Cattermole during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Liverpool.
With the captain again suspended for this week’s FA Cup quarter-final at Everton, it is a role he seems sure to reprise.
O’Neill said: “I have more belief in Jack than he has in himself. He is a really fine player.
“He needs to believe he can mix it in there with the best in the Premier League because he can. You don’t get a better midfielder in the Premier League than Steven Gerrard. I know he was not on for a long period of Saturday’s game (21 minutes), but Jack just gets on with it. He needs
either belief in himself or someone believing in him and I have it for him at the moment. He will get it later on.
“I thought he was excellent against Liverpool and he is a great lad, too. Some players have great self-belief. Maybe he should listen to (Nicklas) Bendtner! Although, on reflection, perhaps not.”
O’Neill is famed for his ability to imbue players with confidence – declaring in 2008 his Aston Villa winger Ashley Young was “on a par with Lionel Messi”.
Despite the competition from Cattermole, David Vaughan and Craig Gardner, Colback has started 11 of O’Neill’s 18 games in charge of Sunderland, two of them as an emergency left-back.
Cattermole’s disciplinary problems continued when he was bailed unconditionally to appear again in front of Newcastle magistrates on March 26. However, five charges of criminal damage against Bendtner were dropped.
They relate to alleged criminal damage, estimated at £4,168.27, to cars parked in Newcastle during O’Neill’s first week as manager.
Cattermole is serving a four-game suspension after receiving his tenth yellow and first red card of the season in this month’s Tyne-Wear derby.
Despite his indiscretions on and off the field, O’Neill has no plans to take the captaincy from the Teessider.
The Black Cats and Newcastle have accepted a Football Association misconduct charge over a 21-man brawl at St James’ Park.
Both teams were charged with failing to control their players after James McClean’s tackle on Danny Simpson sparked a meleé involving everyone bar Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Stéphane Sessègnon was also sent off for an elbow, and Cattermole for foul and abusive language after the final whistle. Both clubs requested personal hearings.
Bendtner was not at yesterday’s magistrates hearing but the striker, linked with a £4m move to Hannover at the weekend, is understood to have had a scan on the knee damaged in Saturday’s win.
The results have not been made public, but the Black Cats will keep a close eye on the on-loan forward in the run-up to the Everton tie.
“We are monitoring him on a daily basis. He will be reassessed towards the end of the week.”
Bendtner went down awkwardly under a clumsy 81st-minute challenge for which Martin Škrtel was booked and was stretchered off.
The Dane’s knee was badly swollen but he did not look in great discomfort as he was carried down the tunnel and the club are optimistic he will be fit to play at Goodison Park on Saturday, with a Wembley semi-final awaiting the winners.
Earlier in the game Bendtner had scored his second goal in as many matches.