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Whatever happened to the Ginger Pirlo?

4 years ago

June 2014 saw the arrival of Jack Colback at Newcastle United.

A local lad and lifelong fan, the midfielder arrived on a free and gained instant popularity, as Sunderland and their fans were furious, claiming that a player who had come through the ranks had done the dirty, engineering a situation whereby they didn’t receive a penny for the investment they had made in him. The Wearside club even released a public statement slagging off their former player.

Starting 35 of the 38 Premier League matches in that first (2014/15) season, only a hefty 12 bookings and subsequent suspension prevented him being an ever present.

Impressive form in his opening games for Newcastle, even saw Roy Hodgson call Jack Colback up for England.

Injury eventually prevented the midfielder taking up the opportunity but it still had the mackems frothing at the mouth even more, outraged that he had been overlooked when at Sunderland, whilst also LOL, demanding to know why then Lee Cattermole wasn’t also getting his chance for the Three Lions.

You quite literally, couldn’t make it up.

When at Sunderland, Colback was a popular figure with the fans, unspectacular but non-stop work getting their approval.

However, playing for the club he supported, Jack Colback discovered previously hidden depths. As well as his impressive workrate and tackling, the midfielder started scoring and making goals.

In a very poor season where Newcastle only scored 40 goals, Colback was involved in 10 of them – scoring four and grabbing six assists.

Such was his popularity and new found flair, Newcastle fans even christened him the ‘Geordie Pirlo’.

Whilst nobody was claimed any kind of level similar to the real one, Newcastle’s Ginger Pirlo had made a very successful introduction to life at St James Park and was a popular figure, a cult hero even.

Steve McClaren took the reins for the following season and the club/team finally did what they had promised to do for a while, get relegated.

Not man players could old their heads up high and with 28 PL starts, Jack Colback wasn’t one of them. A really poor personal season saw him still picking up bookings (11) but back to the usual on goals(1) and assists(1).

Rafa stayed on into the Championship but brought in Isaac Hayden and despite being only 21, the former Arsenal player was marginally first choice in the promotion team, with Colback starting only 24 league games, scoring no goals and grabbing only one assist.

The FA found Colback guilty on breaking betting rules and fined him £25,000 in November 2016 – all was clearly not well with the local lad.

The summer saw new lows for Jack Colback, as Rafa Benitez made clear he wasn’t wanted any longer at Newcastle United.

Not a single involvement in the first team, despite Rafa even playing a full reserve team against Forest in the League Cup, Colback was even left out of the public training session at ST James Park in the school holidays, Rafa preferring to draft in kids to make up the numbers.

Last Monday, the midfielder was given a game for the reserves but was woeful against a team of kids from Wolves.

Even early last season (October 2016), Jack Colback was back in the popularity stakes, as he slaughtered the traitors who had deserted Newcastle as soon as relegation came along (see below).

This week even saw Colback left out of the official 2017/18 NUFC team photo, the final insult.

England call-up, goals and assists, local lad signing for the club he loved, cult hero – where did it all go wrong for the Ginger Pirlo?

Jack Colback October 2016:

“First and foremost I want to take Newcastle back into the Premier League, I think it was a duty that if you were part of the group that took the club down, to try and get it back to where it needs to be.

“I think everything is there now to get the club back in the Premier League and then to push on.

“ I think maybe things weren’t ideal and there was a limit to how far the club could have gone but I think people have realised that it can’t be like that any more.

“Things seem to be getting done properly now. It’s a long-term goal of promotion and then to get the club back to where it needs to be but if we can do that, we can push on from there and see where we can go.”

“That has come with the group that we have got now and the spirit we have. You need that. It’s easy to react when things are a bit more positive.

“The last few years it has been tough and it’s been a tough environment to play in, that is not about our fans, it’s just every club, there is pressure when you’re losing.

“It makes it difficult but we have got a group now that can respond – there has been the odd game that we have won that hasn’t been pretty, the Rotherham one springs to mind and we had to slog it out.”

“Sometimes you get that group which have the right mentality.

“All the lads are good lads, we all get on and we fight for each other.

“It’s the best it has been by a mile, I think it is what the club was missing….”


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