TITUS Bramble says Sunderland have missed Lee Cattermole badly and the defender hopes it won’t be long before the skipper is back in the side for the end of season run-in.
The Black Cats’ captain – who was substituted at half-time against Arsenal last weekend – is nursing a knee problem which has hindered his season.
But he worked on his fitness levels during a week-long break in Dubai and hopes to remain in the starting line-up for this weekend’s visit to West Brom.
And that will please his former Wigan team-mate, Bramble, who believes Sunderland’s league position would have been better this season had the captain played more than just 10 of the club’s 26 league games so far.
The centre-back said: “Lee’s someone that we’ve really missed.
“I look back at the recent Reading game, where we lost, for example, when we should have won and he would have been ideal for a match like that in terms of imposing himself on the game and giving us a platform.
“He’s the captain and he can be a very influential player when he gets a run in the side.
“I’ve seen it at Wigan and I’ve seen it at Sunderland, and it’s just one of those facts of football that if you take the captain out of any side it doesn’t help you.
“He’s been a big miss over the last few months because he’s a leader with this great will to win.
“And when he gets himself in the groove and is really on his game he takes the whole team and the fans with him and gets everyone going.
“It’s just a shame that this season he’s had injuries which haven’t really allowed him to contribute in the way he has done.
“But hopefully he’ll be back to help us with the run-in because if he can get back and get a run of games in towards the end of the season it is going to be a big, big help to us.”
Cattermole might just appreciate Bramble’s firm backing that little bit more today after coming under fire from former Sunderland midfielder Don Hutchison over the weekend.
The Don, a ball-playing, midfielder in Sunderland’s turn-of-the-century team under Peter Reid, has questioned Cattermole’s contribution to the current Sunderland side.
The former footballer, now a TV pundit, said in a Sunday newspaper interview: “I honestly don’t see a player in Lee.
“The game has moved on now to have someone that just runs around picking up yellow and red cards all the time.
“To be fair to the guy, he has been unlucky in terms of injuries and that has probably not helped him.
“I think most of the time he tries too hard.
“He wants to become an enforcer, if you like, but modern-day footballers can easily play around that sort of player.
“He has to change.”
Hutchison reckons Cattermole has to up his game if is to be genuinely beneficial to the Black Cats.
“What does he have to do to become better?” he mused.
“Well, he should sit in front of the two centre-halves, use his experience more and get his pass completion rate higher.
“If I was Lee, I would make it my mission to feed Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean, Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham.”
But Bramble isn’t alone in believing Cattermole is a better player than he is given credit for.
Martin O’Neill said he hoped that by the end of Cattermole’s current contract the 24-year-old would be pressing for senior England honours.
While Echo columnist Gary Rowell said only last week: “I just think Sunderland are a better team when Lee Cattermole is in the team, than when Lee Cattermole isn’t.
“Simple as that.”