LEE CATTERMOLE believes the Capital One Cup has played a key role in improving Sunderland’s return in the Premier League.
Sunderland will bid to reach a Wembley cup final for the first time since 1992 tomorrow night when they take a 2-1 advantage to Manchester United for the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
But the Black Cats’ march to a first League Cup semi-final for 16 years has coincided with an upturn in their league form after Gus Poyet’s men have picked up nine points in the six games since their quarter final success over Chelsea.
Positive results in the cup and league went hand-in-hand during former manager Martin O’Neill’s early days in the job too, as Sunderland moved away from relegation danger as they advanced to the FA Cup quarter final.
And midfielder Cattermole, a part of both cup runs, says Sunderland have needed to build confidence, regardless of the competition.
Cattermole told the Echo: “I think it’s been very similar (to the cup run under O’Neill).
“It gives you that freedom to play in the cup and then suddenly you are getting big results and it gives you such a lift.
“After the Chelsea game, we thought ‘imagine if we’d got to extra-time and lost’ – it would have absolutely destroyed us.
“But when you win that game, suddenly you go into the weekend and you’ve got fresh legs.
“The cup games aren’t a distraction at all.
“If anything, they’ve been a help because you just want to keep on winning games and getting that feeling.”
Tomorrow’s tussle will be the second of five games inside 15 days for Sunderland, culminating in the Tyne-Wear derby on Saturday week.
But Cattermole says that with Sunderland brimming with confidence from their recent results, fatigue is not factor for Gus Poyet’s men.
“We play Saturday-Wednesday, Saturday-Wednesday and then the derby, so we’ve got another four games in the next couple of weeks,” added the 25-year-old.
“But it’s a good time to be hitting form and we’ve lost just once in 10 games in all competitions now.
“We want games thick and fast now.
“We said before Christmas that if we could get some confidence going then it would carry us through and that’s what has happened.
“Suddenly, you’re not quite as tired!
“We don’t want to get carried away, but we’re a team playing well.
“We’re playing as good football as any of the other sides down near the bottom of the table.
“We have to keep taking that confidence forward into every game and keep on repeating exactly what we’ve been doing.
“But we can’t suddenly start to think we are a decent team when we’re not.”