It would be pretty easy, in the heat of emotion following Sunday’s almost stereotypical Sunderland meltdown, to dismiss Lee Cattermole. The same Cattermole that many of us have lauded this season for perhaps being the one player who was up for this relegation dogfight. Most footballers have their pros and cons – but which outweigh the other?
I feel almost obliged to be predictable and first point towards disciplinary record. It was crippling to watch the red mist once again descend across Cattermole's face as he raced in to collect his seventh Premier League red card. Just to heed to perspective, this puts him on par with the likes of Vinnie Jones, Roy Keane, Alan Smith and leaves him just one behind equalling the current record of eight. Staggeringly, he averages a red card every 23 Premier League appearances and at the age of just 25 he looks set to absolutely decimate the current record. That is of course if he continues playing Premier League football – debatable in itself given our season so far.
Another rather disturbing fact is his appearance tally. Prior to this season, Catts has made 78 Premier League appearances (both as a starter and substitute) since arriving in the summer of 2009. Since then, Sunderland have played 152 Premier League games. Factor in those he has missed through suspension and very short period out of favour under Steve Bruce, this would indicate he has missed maybe 60 matches through injury, that’s an average of fifteen a season. Based on this and coupled this with his disciplinary record – you’re lucky to get more than 20 games from him in a season.
All this just isn’t sustainable and makes it very easy to understand why Paolo Di Canio chose to permanently strip Cattermole of the captain’s armband. The fact remains, stripped he may be, but in spirit Catts is the only captain we have.
Right now, this season, we absolutely need him and I am certain Gus Poyet will stand by him. For all his major flaws, mostly, we are such a better team when he is in the side. Of our midfielders, Cattermole is the only one who can genuinely impose himself on a football match. Whether that be by intimidating opponents or by dictating play by dragging us towards the opposition goal given his tendency to pass in a forward direction (strange for a Sunderland midfielder, that). He commands the midfield and organises it. Ultimately, unlike a lot of our current squad, he never disappears in a football match.
With that said, I honestly believe that if we do manage to drag ourselves out of this seemingly inevitable plunge into the Championship – it will be the perfect time to move on from the likes of Cattermole.
It is worrying to think along these lines, but to me Cattermole embodies this football club. Now I don’t mean that in a vomity sort of backside kissing kind of way – quite the opposite. Think about it, Catts is misguided (often by himself), technically not brilliant, often missing, prone to self-implosion but with a true footballing soul that will always be there driving us on. We as a football club are misguided (often by ourselves), technically nowhere near brilliant, usually missing, prone to massive self-implosion but with a true footballing soul that will always be there driving Sunderland on…that is us by the way. Supporters, I mean.
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