When Jack Colback got sent off early on to Sunderland’s game with Queens Park Rangers yesterday, oh how fans rejoiced in delight. One might wonder how a player, who being produced by our academy and appeared over 100 times for SAFC, with some memorable goals and moments, became such a hate figure. Let’s explore the unusual story of who fans now refer to as “The ginger piss biscuit.”
Jack Colback was born in North Tyneside, a ticking time bomb of course which always impacted which club he would grow up to support. However, as a young aspiring footballer it is natural that you take any academy place and opportunity you get, especially if it is a high level club. Thus despite his mag roots, as a youngster Jack Colback accepted a place at the Academy of Light, and who wouldn’t in his situation?
Jack was earnest in his professional career rising through the ranks and eventually making it into the first team. Perhaps understanding his potential, he was sent off to Ipswich on loan where former manager Roy Keane took the reigns, and here he spent a season and a half before he ultimately come of age to break into the Sunderland first team.
Colback’s time at SAFC was decent. He was a reliable midfielder who was good enough to keep the black cats in the Premier League. In doing so he participated in the front lines of the club’s best achievements of that era. This includes the first few matches of the “six in a row against the mags” where he even scored a memorable goal to inflict a successive 3-0 defeat against them St. James’ Park, the Carabao Cup final campaign and the Great Escape which he wrapped up with a lob over the Cardiff Goalkeeper.
However, the feats of that season, which could otherwise have cemented Colback as a fan favourite, soon turned to sour grapes as at the end of that same season Colback rebuffed a new contract and instead completed a direct transfer to Newcastle United. The development was so shocking that the club even went as far as releasing an extraordinary bitter and resentful statement over the incident, although that was also a testament to how badly SAFC was being run at the time.
Immediately on joining Newcastle United, Colback proclaimed that he had finally joined his boyhood and the “bigger” club, implicitly rubbishing his years at Sunderland. In doing so he was widely perceived as committing an act of treachery and betrayal which instantaneously turned him into a fan hate figure. While there are many players who have played for both Sunderland and Newcastle, this doesn’t always turn into ill feelings depending on the attitude of the player. For example, do we hate Daryl Murphy because he joined the mags later on in his career? Nobody cares.
But for a local player to actively and directly cross the divide, it rarely ever ends well. Thus Colback became a subject of scorn and ridicule. After joining NUFC, he soon became on the receiving end of Sunderland’s Six in a Row triumph and became subject of an infamous confrontation with Lee Cattermole with a legitimate tackle landing an injury on him. This image, as seen above, became an icon of Sunderland fan vengeance towards him for the betrayal.
Colback’s career never reclaimed the heights of his SAFC days. NUFC got relegated that season, and more significantly Colback’s professional attitude withered which seen him fall out of favour at St. James’ Park even as they got promoted. Shunned from the first team, Colback went to Nottingham Forest in the Championship. After they got promoted, he again fell out of favour and got released by the club in 2023.
This lead Colback to sign for QPR, a struggling Championship side. Facing SAFC for the first time in years following our exile to League One, fans relished the opportunity to confront him again and guess what? We weren’t disappointed. He was sent off within 20 minutes with a red card, humiliated by Sunderland yet again.
Once respected, Colback is now loathed and ridiculed. As we explored with Jimmy Hill, fans will always remember and scorn those who in some ways cheated, undermined or betrayed the club. No matter how well he did while playing here, there’s no rewriting how the history books will remember his legacy.