Jack Colback’s not used to looking down the table.
The midfielder has spent much of his footballing career looking up. It’s all too often been a struggle in the league.
But Newcastle United – who take on Leeds United at a sold-out Elland Road tomorrow – are top of the Championship.
Colback admits he was “ashamed” at last season’s relegation.
So, too, were the club’s long-suffering fans.
“It is the first time I have experienced the successful side of football, if I’m being blunt,” said Colback, who started his career at Sunderland and joined Newcastle two years ago.
As a player, I get paid to do this, and as a player you do feel ashamed walking around. The area 95% supports the team. It’s not like London, when you can be invisible. It was a really disappointing year, but we are trying to restore pride.Jack Colback
“I had some good times at Sunderland – finishing 10th and getting to a cup final – but it has generally been a struggle in the league.
“When I signed here, I expected that to change. Now it has and we’re top dogs in the league. I’m enjoying it.”
There was no escaping United’s plight for Killingworth-born Colback during his first two seasons at St James’s Park.
“It’s our job to perform, and we didn’t and got relegated,” he said.
“As a player, I get paid to do this, and, as a player, you do feel ashamed walking around.
“The area 95% supports the team. It’s not like London, when you can be invisible. It was a really disappointing year, but we are trying to restore pride.”
It’s been easier looking supporters in the eye this season.
“It’s a goldfish bowl here – you carry the form of the team everywhere you go,” said Colback. “You go out with the kids, and everyone wants to talk about football. That’s easier when you are winning games instead of struggling.”
Colback, however, is not getting carried away.
“We’re doing our job,” he said. “No disrespect to the league, but we expect to be promoted.
“If we walk around thinking we have done something yet, we’ll be caught out.
“The aim is to get promoted, maybe then I’ll walk around with my chest out.
“If the team is doing well, the fans are full of praise.
“With Newcastle, the fans turn up every week. Away from home, we can nearly double the attendance, and when you have that following you have to raise standards and live up to the expectations.
“We’re not doing it in the league we want to be in, but we’re giving a bit back.
“Last season, I kind of felt ashamed at how the team were playing and the results. You’d get support and people saying ‘come on, good luck’.
“But you were not performing with the team you grew up supporting. It was the worst-case scenario.
“It’s clear to see there’s a positive vibe. Winning games brings that. Once fans got over us being relegated, they just wanted to see us win games and get behind us.”
Colback admits what happened last season took a while to sink in.
“It was hard for it to sink in – it probably didn’t until we came back and the fixtures came out,” he said.
By the time United knew when they’d be travelling to Burton and Barnsley, manager Rafa Benitez had committed himself to the club.
“For the players, knowing that he was staying was reassuring,” said Colback.
“He sees this as a club with huge potential that can build.
“If we can get out of the Championship, the sky’s the limit, really.”