SUNDERLAND are trailing a distant third in the race for Jack Colback’s services, with Newcastle United convinced they have won the battle to sign the Black Cats’ midfielder despite a mega-money offer from West Ham.
And the Black Cats know that if they have to are to have any chance of keeping the homegrown product on their books it will take a last-minute and ambitious bid to persuade him to stay.
The Echo revealed last week that Hammers boss Sam Allardyce was prepared to offer a £50,000 per week pay packet to guarantee the signing of the talented 24-year-old whose contract at the Stadium of Light expires at the end of this month.
That huge wage – considerably more than three times the amount he is currently picking up at Sunderland – was expected to be enough to tempt the Sunderland Academy product into moving to Upton Park.
But the Magpies believe the lure of being able to offer the midfielder enhanced wages AND the prospect of remaining in the North East will clinch a move to St James’s Park.
Colback, who is very much a home bird and has a young family, will undoubtedly feel the emotional pull of remaining in his native region.
But the situation can only have come as an irritation to the Black Cats who must now realise that a little bit of foresight could have avoided one off the best Sunderland youth prospects of recent years being allowed to leave for nothing.
Colback was not unsettled when he came to renegotiate his contract last summer as it entered the last 12 months of its existing deal.
But a cursory, virtually insulting, improvement on the midfielder’s wages, offered by then director of football Roberto De Fanti, angered the Colback camp, given that he was already one of the poorest paid first-teamers at the club.
And although Sunderland under Gus Poyet have now come back with a much improved offer for Colback, his head appears to have been turned by the fresh offers that have come his way.
Newcastle sources are claiming victory for Colback’s signature already, suggesting his move to the Tynesiders will be confirmed when he returns from holiday later this month.
Although Colback was born in Killingworth, north of Tyneside, he was never picked up by Newcastle and has had no problems pinning his colours to Sunderland’s mast since joining the Black Cats at the age of 10.
He led a Sunderland Reserve side to victory at St James’s Park, scoring a rare goal, and admitting afterwards that he took huge delight in the victory.
And after scoring in a 3-0 Premier League win away to Newcastle last season, he revelled in the adulation which accompanied such a convincing derby victory for the Wearsiders
Now, though, it appears he faces a choice between the Magpies or the Hammers, with the former offering him the chance to stay in the region and the latter offering him a deal worth millions more.
Whatever happens, it appears that Colback’s long stay at Sunderland is over unless there is a big change of heart at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats have offered Colback the chance to more than double his previous wages, but it seems apparent now that that will not be enough to keep him on Wearside.
If they are serious about wanting to keep him, it will cost them a small fortune in comparison to what it would have cost them last summer.