The rarest of sights, Colback on England duty.
Hello there, it was finally my turn on the rota to write for The Durham Times again, and what a bloody week. As the person who made up the rota, I really should have planned for the fact this is an international week and nothing to really look forward to.
This week however, I bemoaned Jack Colback's lack of recognition, whilst also, and whisper it, dishing out a bit of praise for Steve Bruce. Only whisper it though, let's not give him ideas.
So as you know, this first appeared in The Durham Times on Friday. Go get yourself a copy next week, it's only 30p from all good newsagents, or you could have headed to their site and read it. Get yourself up to date next why don't you. For the late-comers though, here's my offering...
(SW: It has since come to my attention that with even the tiniest bit of research, I'd have realised Colback isn't actually available to play for the U21's. I apologise, and I'm not even going to bother making excuses such as I thought qualifying started in 2010 etc, it's just buffoonery on my part. That said, he really should have had a few more games when he was eligible, so erm, yeah.)
Even with the departures of Jordan Henderson and Darren Bent, Sunderland still manage to be overlooked when it comes to England and international weeks.
For those who aren't sure, I'm talking here about Jack Colback's continual absence from the England U21 squad, and whilst it might not be a massive deal to some since it's only the youth set-up, it's something fundamentally wrong in my eyes.
How Colback, who has not only been one of our better and most consistent performers , sits at home this week whilst the likes of Gary Gardner, Tom Carroll and Jason Lowe get the call is beyond me. I'm sure they're all highly talented players, but none have played as regularly or well as our Jack.
I'm not even sure how to put it into words really, but it's baffling to be honest. Connor Wickham received the call-up to the original squad (prior to injury), so they surely must be being picked on merit? No, it seems that reputation alone is the only requirement to get in the U21 squad, just as it is the senior squad.
I can only hope that Colback doesn't "pull a Henderson" in the summer and leave to further his international career, as I'm not alone in thinking at this stage of their development, Colback is the more talented player.
In matters closer to home however, I must admit, there's a humble pie in the oven, and an icy cold glass of my own words looking more and more tempting as, and whisper it mind, Steve Bruce appears to be turning things around.
The shift in formation at Bolton Wanderers was a joy to see, and it worked. There was also a credible draw with the tougher Aston Villa, however the ultimate test of Bruce was to be at Old Trafford last weekend.
I was hugely surprised that he continued with the same formation as opposed to going 4-5-1 or 4-6-0 as he did at Arsenal, and despite defeat we put in a performance that we can be proud of.
Whilst I didn't agree with all of Bruce's judgements in the game, for example when in search of a goal he bring off Stephane Sessegnon and on David Meyler ahead of Craig Gardner, there was certainly signs of life, and to bring on Ji Dong-Won when Connor Wickham unfortunately went down, Bruce showed his faith in our new system.
With Richardson cutting in, and Sessegnon joining the attack when in possession, we look a much more cohesive unit, and with time, I think it will certainly guide us up the league.
Whilst Bolton, Villa and Manchester United were all solid tests of the fledgling system, tougher tests lie in the forthcoming games with Fulham, Wigan, Blackburn and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Whilst many will see these teams as our equals, or even ‘below' us, they're all battling teams, but at the same time it's four games we should be looking to win.
Now let's not get carried away here. Four wins on the bounce is almost unheard of, so I'm doubting it's actually going to happen, however when the inevitable stutter comes, it's hugely important Bruce stays loyal to this current system we're using.
We thought we had it cracked against Stoke City, however following it up with abject defeat against Norwich City everything was ripped up and started again.
So I'm asking nicely Mr Bruce, you're on to a good thing with this formation, system and tactics, don't allow one defeat or poor performance (which will come) to undo the last three weeks of good work.
Head on over to The Durham Times website next week and have a read of our latest musings - http://www.durhamtimes.co.uk/sport/rokerreport - and of course you're more than welcome to spend thirty of your heard earned pennies in an actual shop and buy it. Every Friday.