LEE CATTERMOLE could be in contention for a return in Sunderland’s crunch Premier League clash against Burnley next week.
Influential midfielder Cattermole has been sidelined since last month’s stalemate at Aston Villa after being struck down by niggling groin and knee problems.
Sunderland have lost all three Premier League outings while Cattermole has been on the treatment table, to leave the Black Cats just a point above the relegation zone.
However, Cattermole – who will play no part in this weekend’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Fulham – was due to begin running today and could be back in full training next week, ahead of the visit of fourth bottom Burnley, who only lie below Sunderland on goal difference.
First-team coach Charlie Oatway told the Echo: “Lee has had a couple of little niggly injuries.
“One was one that he’d been carrying for a few weeks, so it’s given him chance to give that a rest.
“He starts jogging today, and then I’m sure with the way he is as a person and a player, he should be training next week.”
North East Football Writers’ Player of the Year Cattermole, along with Seb Larsson and John O’Shea, have been Sunderland’s most consistent performers this season.
The Teessider has repeatedly identified the difference to his game since the arrival of Gus Poyet as Sunderland head coach, and Oatway says that has been a gratifying acknowledgement.
“I love talking to Lee,” he said.
“It’s a nice thing for us as a coaching staff that he says he’s learned a hell of a lot over the last 16 months that we’ve been here.
“It’s nice to get that feedback off players.
“Not only do we miss him on the pitch, but in training sessions too.
“When players come out sometimes and they’re a bit tired, he doesn’t change.
“He still wants to win every game that he’s taking part in, and that includes training.
“You miss him on a daily basis, let alone a matchday.”
Cattermole won’t be alone in missing tomorrow’s game, with Adam Johnson (calf) and Wes Brown (knee) also absent with minor knocks.
That is likely to hand opportunities to the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini, Sebastian Coates and Liam Bridcutt – back from a one-game suspension – while goalkeeper Vito Mannone could also make his first competitive appearance since November.
Sunderland have met Fulham only twice before in the FA Cup, with one win apiece.
Bobby Gurney’s hat-trick inspired a 3-2 victory for the Red and Whites in the third round in 1935, but Fulham avenged that reverse 34 years later, hitting four first-half goals in a 4-1 success at Roker Park in another third round tie.
Bobby Kerr fired Sunderland’s consolation goal that day.
The clubs have only met twice in the League Cup, too. In a two-legged second round clash in 1989-90, Paul Hardyman’s penalty earned a 1-1 home draw before two-goal Marco Gabbiadini and Gordon Armstrong struck in a comprehensive 3-0 second-leg triumph.