LEE CATTERMOLE conducted his comeback under Kevin Ball’s watchful gaze during the summer after being banished from the first-team picture at Sunderland.
While Paolo Di Canio took his players to an Italian pre-season training camp and then onwards to Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy, Cattermole remained behind on Wearside.
The former Sunderland skipper, along with out-of-favour team-mate Phil Bardsley, spent pre-season training with the Black Cats’ Under-21s at the Academy of Light after recovering from the knee injury which blighted the midfielder last season.
Far from sulking at his predicament though, Cattermole used his time prudently; passing on his experience to those in Ball’s development squad.
Ball was impressed.
After being installed as Sunderland caretaker manager, Ball immediately recalled Cattermole to the starting line-up, with the 25-year-old completing his first 90 minutes since last November in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup win over Peterborough.
And Ball admits he sees echoes of his own playing style in Cattermole, with the Teessider now back in the fold following Di Canio’s dismissal, albeit the Italian had handed him an olive branch during the final fortnight of his reign.
“From Lee’s point of view, he had his injury and then came back and worked a fair bit with me during pre-season with the Under-21s,” said Ball.
“What I enjoyed most about him then was seeing his professionalism and seeing how he went about things and how he demanded from the 21s.
“Sometimes, I have to say it put a smile on my face because it reminded me of when I played!
“You could see some of the 21s probably thinking, ‘is he having a go at me?’.
“But I said to them ‘listen, boys, he is not having a go at you to have a go, he is just pushing you and making demands of you’.
“When I saw him on the pitch on Tuesday – bearing in mind he had not played 90 minutes for a long time – I think he produced a very accomplished performance, along with a fabulous ball for the goal.
“He drove the team on.”
Cattermole is expected to keep his place for Sunday’s visit of Liverpool, in what could be an unchanged line-up from Ball.
Summer signings Modibo Diakite and Ondrej Celustka will hope for a recall after being left out of the 18 against Peterborough, with the latter losing his ever-present record this season.
But replacements Craig Gardner and Carlos Cuellar both made a strong case to be retained in defence after helping Sunderland to their first clean sheet of the season.