Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is convinced Jack Colback could play for England despite the midfielder missing out on Roy Hodgson’s squad this time around.
The 25-year-old former Sunderland player, dubbed ‘the ginger Pirlo’ by Hodgson, was included in the party for September clashes with Norway and Switzerland, but was forced to withdraw because of injury.
He has since spent time establishing himself as a fixture in Pardew’s Magpies engine room, and his club manager is convinced there is more to come from him at both club and international levels.
The 53-year-old boss said: “He’s been a significant part of our season, in a positive way. If I was to mark him, I’d say seven out of 10 - but I think he can get eights and nines here.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching him play. I love his mentality. Could he play for England? For sure.
“All he needs to do is build on what he’s done.
“To come from our big rivals (Sunderland) and to have played the way he has is a real testament to his character.”
Pardew revealed that Colback, who has played every minute of Newcastle’s four successive victories over Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool, has taken a measured approach to his brief flirtation with the international scene.
He said: “We’ve got a good batch of central midfield players in the England squad, so he has good competition. I’ve got no problems with Roy’s selection, and neither has Jack.
“He’s a very simple player to manage. He makes the game simple. He’s low maintenance – he comes in, does his work, is terrific and goes home – lovely.”
Colback, of course, has a wealth of Premier League experience from his time on Wearside, although Mehdi Abeid, who starred alongside him in the Capital One Cup fourth-round victory at Manchester City and in the league against Liverpool, is a relative newcomer.
He has been on Tyneside for more than three years, but Pardew has credited last season’s loan spell at Panathinaikos as the turning point in his career.
He said: “He’s definitely a gauge for other young players – not just at this football club, but other Premier League clubs. He’s shown that going out on loan can help massively.
“He came back from that loan spell a much better player. We need to thank the club for what they did for him. But it worked both ways because he did very well.
“It’s a system I’ve always believed in. We’ve got players out on loan at the moment and we’ll continue to do that, because I think it works.”
The focus of both men on Sunday will be the club’s Barclays Premier League trip to West Brom and the task of extending a four-game winning run, which has so far lifted the Magpies out of the bottom three and into mid-table.
Young striker Ayoze Perez, who scored winning goals against both Spurs and Liverpool, and rampaging midfielder Moussa Sissoko, may have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but the foundation provided by a defensive unit to which Steven Taylor has been restored has been equally vital.
Central defender Taylor, who was himself called into the England squad in March last year, had previously been kept out of the team by Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson, but injury has sidelined Williamson for the last four games, and Taylor has taken his opportunity with relish.
Of the six games in which he has been involved to date this season, Newcastle have won five and drawn one, and Pardew admits that is no coincidence.
He said: ‘You can’t argue with his record. He’s a player that, when he’s confident, can get in the England squad, which he did during my time here.
“The key to Steven is having a sustained run and staying injury-free, which he is having at the moment. When he gets his confidence, he’s an outstanding centre-half.”