JACK Colback is confident he can handle the pressure of crossing the Tyne-Wear divide to join Newcastle United.
The midfielder has become the first player to leave Sunderland for their fierce rivals in more than two decades.
And Killingworth-born Colback is conscious that the move will prove “controversial” on both Tyneside and Wearside.
However, having put months of speculation over his future behind him by committing his long-term future to Newcastle, the 24-year-old is just focused on his football.
And the experienced campaigner - who scored in Sunderland’s 3-0 Tyne-Wear derby win at St James’s Park last season - is looking forward to meeting his new team-mates for the start of pre-season training early next month.
“It’s obviously going to be a controversial one,” Colback said.
“All I can do is concentrate on playing football and improving as a player.”
Only a handful of players have moved directly between the two clubs, the last of which was Robbie Elliott, who made the switch to Sunderland after his release from Newcastle in the summer of 2006.
And Colback is acutely aware of the significance of his move.
However, he is confident he can deal with everything that will come his way - on and off the pitch - as he starts the next chapter of his footballing career.
“I’m fully aware of the things that come with it, coming from Sunderland, but that’s something I feel I can deal with as a player,” said Colback, who played for Cramlington Juniors as a boy.
“That wasn’t going to get in the way of the opportunity to come here.
“It’s a great move for me. I’m going to be immensely proud to wear the shirt.
“Obviously, I grew up watching the team and coming to games with my dad.
“When I heard about the chance to come here there was no doubt in my mind that this was a move I wanted to happen.”
The length of Colback’s deal has not been disclosed, but it is understood he has agreed a six-year contract with the club.
He will become Newcastle’s second summer signing, with 20-year-old striker Ayoze Perez having already joined from Tenerife.
But Colback is the more significant acquisition in more ways than one.
Only a small number of players have transferred directly between the North East’s two fierce rivals.
Colback crossed the Tyne to join Sunderland’s Academy aged 10 and went on to turn professional at the club.
And he then established himself as a Premier League player after two loan spells in the Championship with Ipswich Town.