Jack Colback candidly reveals what Newcastle lacked before Rafa Benitez's arrival

Jack Colback said Newcastle United got going when the going got tough in the Championship.

Monday, 15th May 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 15th May 2017, 8:36 am
Jack Colback.

Colback made 24 league starts for Rafa Benitez’s title-winning side.

Newcastle won the Championship on the final day of the season.

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The turnaround under Benitez has been remarkable.

United were a losing team for Colback’s first two seasons at St James’s Park.

Benitez turned Newcastle into winners.

Colback, signed in the summer of 2014, feels United lacked “fight” at times in the previous two campaigns.

But Benitez’s side had to fight and scrap week in, week out in English football’s unforgiving second tier.

Asked what he put the team’s success down to, Colback said: “That’s a lot to do with the character of the team.

“I think that was lacking when I first came.

“We were lacking that fight, that drive at times when the going gets tough.”

United were the pre-season favourites to win the league, and the team has played in front of sold-out crowds home and away.

“The expectations have been bigger this year,” said 27-year-old Colback.

“We’ve been expected to win the league, and rightly so, really, because we’re a big club.

“But we’ve had to cope with that. We’ve always reacted.

“We started off slow. That was maybe a wake-up call for us. We’ve been consistent throughout.

“We’ve lost probably more games than we’d hoped, but we’ve finished top of the league so no-one can say anything about that.”

Newcastle – who spent tens of millions of pounds in the transfer market last summer – have had their critics this season.

But Colback, in defence of the team’s achievement, has pointed to the experiences of Aston Villa and Norwich City, who were relegated with United last season.

Villa and Norwich failed to even make the play-offs – despite having two of the best squads in the division.

“Obviously, we can’t downplay it (winning the title),” said Colback.

“If you compare Villa and Norwich, who have got very strong squads.

“They haven’t even got in play-offs.

“It shows the strength of the league. It’s a tough league.

“Even (against) the lower teams, it’s always a battle.

“I think, especially for us, we’re a big scalp.

“Teams lift their game against us, and we’ve had to match that.

“Over the course of the season I think we’ve been very consistent. “We’ve had the odd setback, but we’ve always reacted, and I think that’s been the key.”

Newcastle beat Barnsley 3-0 at St James’s Park on the final day of the season.

That result, and Brighton and Hove Albion’s 1-1 draw against Villa, saw the title go to United in the last few minutes of a gruelling 46-game campaign.

Jack Grealish scored a 90th-minute equaliser for Steve Bruce’s side at Villa Park on a dramatic afternoon.

“It was the best way it could’ve went,” said Colback.

“We heard the cheers in the first half, and thought it was 1-0 (to Villa).

“We found out at half time that it was disallowed. We just had to do our job. We did that.

“It was always going to be a case of it being a bonus if we won the league.

“For it to end like that in the last minute was fantastic.”