In many ways Lee Cattermole’s absence through injury has been more noticeable since his return to the starting lineup. The contrast between Sunderland’s limp, ineffective displays in his absence and the aggression shown in midfield now he is back is stark. The difference is certainly there for all to see.
Yet, let us not forget last season’s campaign saw him become marginalised and not for the first time on Wearside, his number looked to be up. Many supporters looked to the in form Yann M’Vila and Jan Kirchhoff as players capable of usurping Cattermole in the defensive midfield role. Those two certainly have the better blend of quality and aggression on the ball.
However, despite obstacles for him to overcome the Teessider has constantly forced his way into the Black Cats starting eleven over the years, even playing in a more advance position at times. It obviously took him some getting used to at first, but his performances have been enough to help drag his team over the finishing line, avoiding relegation, on too many occasions for it to be a fluke.
Of course the landscape quickly changes in football and nowhere more rapidly than at the Stadium of Light. Even in the fast pace of change that surrounds life at Sunderland, Cattermole has shown he that he simply sees this continual transformation as an opportunity to showcase his ability to adapt. It’s that and his impassioned, combative nature, which always ensures he figures in his manager’s plans. The fact that he has played under so many and still emerged as a constant figurehead surely demonstrates this.
In the last few games since his return he continues to prove he is an inspirational leader both on and off the pitch. Speaking after the 2-2 draw with West Ham United, Cattermole had this to say,
“That’s as positive as I’ve felt after a game for a long time, and if we have to start with a draw, we’ll start with a draw. But I think you’ll definitely see us look to build on that.”
During these bleak moments of the Premier League season – with Sunderland rock bottom of the table – the Black Cats can only benefit from this positivity. Cattermole may not have the silky, creative skills of a Philippe Coutinho or grab the headlines like an N’Golo Kante. But, for the Black Cats he is just as important.