JACK COLBACK is ready to stamp his mark on the derby midfield battle after being left out of Martin O’Neill’s first line-up against the Magpies.
Colback was restricted to a late substitute’s role in March’s 1-1 draw on Tyneside after he was dropped from the side in the wake of Sunderland’s 4-0 rout at West Brom eight days earlier.
But with skipper Lee Cattermole serving the final match of his three-game ban this weekend, the onus will be on Colback to counter Newcastle midfield pair Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye.
The 22-year-old has played every minute of Sunderland’s season so far and is ready for the responsibility of being the Black Cats’ pivotal figure in the middle for O’Neill’s derby bow at the Stadium of Light.
Colback told the Echo: “It was a disappointment not to start in March. We’d played West Brom the week before and I didn’t have a great game and I was a bit fearful of losing my spot.
“When I did, it was disappointing, because it would have been the first time I had been involved at their place.
“But it’s part and parcel of football and hopefully I’ll be involved this weekend.
“Obviously Lee’s been a miss because he’s that type of player that sets the stall out for everyone. When you lose your captain, he’s going to be a miss.
“He’s the type of player that you’d like in this game, but there’s a lot of options who are capable of doing a good job.”
Colback has been partnered by Seb Larsson in central midfield for Sunderland’s last two games, although that could change with the return to fitness of defender Phil Bardsley.
Bardsley has enjoyed two run-outs since shaking off the ankle problem sustained in pre-season and is in contention to regain his right-back spot – freeing Craig Gardner to return to a more familiar midfield role.
But Tynesider Colback is a near-certain starter and needs no reminding of the ramifications of Sunday’s clash as Sunderland seek only a second derby victory in 12 years.
“For me, being from around here, I know how much it means to the fans,” he said. “You feel that bit of added pressure on the game. We do have to look at it in the same way as any other, but I’m sure on the day it’ll be pretty intense.
“It’s the game everyone looks for first when the fixture list comes out. It’s one I’m really looking forward to. We owe it to the fans to get a win in this game.”
While Colback is no stranger to the magnitude of the derby, Sunderland’s five summer signings are all in contention to face the Magpies in red and white for the first time.
Yet Colback insists he has not needed to brief them on the local bragging rights at stake on Sunday.
“The new players quickly get on the same wavelength with you,” he added.
“They live around the area and they’ll hear things and see things in the press as well. They’ll realise how much it means. I don’t think you really need to get it across to anyone.
“Everyone knows how big this is.”