After a man of the match performance in Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Norwich, Lee Cattermole has lapped up plaudits from far and wide. Match of the Day’s Garth Crook’s even went as far to say that the 28-year-old warrants an international cap.
It hasn’t been an easy few years for Cattermole, having been in and out the side to injuries and suspensions.
His days at Sunderland could have been all but over but the stand-in captain really found his form under Gus Poyet.
Cattermole said, “Gus got me really thinking about the game, with positioning and things like that, and I really enjoyed my time with him.”
But recently, Sam Allardyce has had a number of defensive midfielders at his disposal in the form Jan Kirchhoff and Yann M’Vila, so Cattermole has found himself playing in a more, very unfamiliar, advanced role.
He added, “It’s obviously a change of manager and a change of styles, but the gaffer believes I can affect the game for him in the way he wants to play, playing in that higher position.”
The change in roles isn’t always easy and Cattermole admitted, “I see my form suffer sometimes”.
What may forget is that over Christmas, Cattermole sustained a frustrating back injury which caused a number of lay-offs and led to various painkilling injections. Cattermole described the injury as “tough” and claimed that “people overlook that”.
The injury had an impact on Cattermole, who’s now back to his best. He admitted he's "learning again" but "enjoying the position".
He was the first to admit that he "had to work" as when Allardyce first chose to play him there, he knew he wasn't fit and he thought: "‘I’m going to have to get fitter because I’m not fit enough to play how he wants me to’."
Cattermole said he can “feel it coming”, however. The anchorman of Sunderland’s midfielder told the Sunderland Echo that he’d been “working hard in training” and played a few behind closed doors friendlies which he really “enjoyed”.
Sunderland’s longest-serving player is clearly happy with been back in the team, and shares an endearing relationship with Sunderland fans. For many of the supporters, Cattermole epitomizes Sunderland, his hardworking, no-nonsense attitude is what the Stadium of Light wants to see.
“I managed to get back in, and I just want to push on now. That’s important for the team,” Cattermole told the Sunderland Echo.
The reaction of Cattermole upon producing three goal-line clearances at Carrow Road tells it all, his sheer determination is unquestionable.
Fear of relegation
However, as convincing as Sunderland’s win was, Sunderland still aren’t safe. Cattermole himself has never bene relegated, he’s seen it happen to his hometown club Middlesbrough and knows the affect it can have.
Cattermole spoke with a teammate on the way home from Norwich and learned a lot, “I was chatting with one of the lads on the way home from Norwich and I asked him if he’d been relegated before and he said ‘yes, twice’.”
The unnamed teammate couldn’t believe that Cattermole wasn’t aware of his relegations, stating that “you feel like everyone knows and it never leaves you”.
The thought of relegation clearly isn’t easy for Cattermole with the midfielder confessing “it’d kill me and really affect me a lot”.
Though he isn’t prepared to let that happen easily, “That’s why you have to fight and do everything you can to survive.”
Everyone at the club knows how important Premier League survival is, “We’ve made sure between ourselves that no one is in any doubt about what it’s all about and how important it is to make sure we do stay up.”
And if no-one what the outcome of this campaign, Cattermole and his teammates want to be able to say: “Yeah, we did everything we could and we couldn’t have done any more."
Cattermole said that was “the main thing” and wants to be able say, “I said everything I wanted to say and did everything I wanted to do”.
The feelings between Cattermole and Sunderland are clear, having signed a new five-year contract with the Wearsiders at the beginning of the season, the midfielder admitted that he’d fallen in love with Sunderland.
But is this love affair enough to keep Sunderland up? The Black Cats face Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.