Jack Colback’s determined to put a frustrating few months behind him at Newcastle United – and ease the pain of Isaac Hayden’s absence.
The midfielder has had spells out with a head injury and illness this season.
But Colback is fully fit and set for a run in Rafa Benitez’s side with Hayden sidelined for four weeks after undergoing ankle surgery.
The 27-year-old – who has started the Championship club’s last two games after recovering from a bout of illness – will line up against Aston Villa at St James’s Park tonight.
Asked about his most recent spell out, Colback said: “Before that I had the head injury, and little niggles as well, so it’s been frustrating all year, really.
“It’s been very stop-start, and I’m just glad to be back now, and hopefully I can get a good run.”
It’s been very stop-start, and I’m just glad to be back now, and hopefully I can get a good run.Jack Colback
Colback has had to play catch-up with his fitness.
“Obviously, you’re still trying to do bits and bobs when you’re out, but you can’t replicate a full speed game, a competitive game,” said Colback, who played under Villa manager Steve Bruce earlier in his career at Sunderland.
“It takes a bit longer to get your second wind. I’ve felt not too bad though.”
Newcastle came from behind to draw 2-2 with Norwich City at Carrow Road six days ago.
Benitez, while frustrated at the errors that gifted the home side their two first-half goals, was pleased with the “character” his team showed after the break Carrow Road.
“I think we have just been consistent,” said Colback.
“We have obviously had setbacks, but have always reacted to them well and never really suffered many consecutive defeats or had a spell where we have not won a game for a while.
“It has probably never been longer than two or three games.
“Villa and Norwich have been through longer spells when they have not won a game.
“It is a strong squad in terms of characters that we have got here.
“We are all pulling in same direction an all want the same thing and that is to be promoted.
“We know we have to react to setbacks.”
Killingworth-born Colback, a boyhood United fan, was hurt by the club’s relegation.
On the responsibility that comes with being part of a relegated team, Colback added: “We want to put that right because no one wants a relegation on their CV.
“If that happens, the least you can do is to fight as hard as you can to put that right.”
Villa were relegated with Newcastle last season.
However, the Villa Park club has struggled this season.
“They are two clubs that should be in the Premier League,” said Colback.
“Obviously, nobody’s got a given right to be there, but we didn’t perform well enough to keep our status last season.
“If you look at us and Villa, the expectation is there to be promoted.
“We’ve dealt with that a bit better than Villa have, but if you compare that to the likes of Huddersfield and teams like that, no disrespect, the expectation isn’t there for them to win promotion or the league, so they can probably play with a bit more freedom and that’s showing in their performances as well.”
Bruce succeeded the sacked Roberto Di Matteo in October.
Asked about his own experiences playing for Bruce at Sunderland, Colback said: “I had quite a positive season with Steve when I first got involved.
“I first came in towards the second half of the season when we finished 10th
“I just found him easy to work with and his idea were easy to understand.
“He was good to be around, because he knew how to make players feel good.
“He also knew when to be a bit tough.
“It feels like a lifetime ago, because I have had two kids since then!”
United have been at their best away from home this season.
On the pressure of playing at St James’s Park, Colback said: “Fans want to see good performances, and if the team doesn’t start well, them they always kind of make that known.
“But at St James’s it’s certainly not as bad as I have experienced before, and they stick with you and stay there until the end and give us a chance to do it.
“We’ve certainly had games when we’ve scored late on at home, so it’s something we’ve got to deal with.”