O’Neill backs Colback to mix it with the best

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Martin O’Neill goes into the close season knowing all eyes will be on the quality players he might – or might not – bring in this summer, writes Graeme Anderson.

But while the Sunderland manager has been the first in recent weeks to point out that his squad needs strengthening in the close season, he’s also excited about some of the talent he already has on the books.

In particular, he has high hopes for young gun trio Jack Colback, James McClean and Fraizer Campbell.

The Black Cats boss has warmed to Colback completely since his arrival at the club in early December.

The 22-year-old midfielder has been a first-team regular under O’Neill and, with 28 league appearances in the 2011/12 campaign, is now acknowledged as a proven Premier League performer.

But O’Neill feels there is so much more to come from a player who has everything except confidence.

“Jack’s very young and I think I have more belief in him than he does,” said O’Neill. “I think he’s a really fine player and he needs to believe he can mix it in midfield with the best of them.

“What Jack really needs is belief in himself, or someone else believing in him.

“I have it in him for the moment and that should be enough until later on, when he’ll get it himself.”

That moment of self-confidence could come next season when Colback will return knowing he is now an established part of the squad, rather than a promising youngster.

* Full story in today’s Sunderland Echo