LEE Cattermole has every chance of keeping his place in Sunderland’s starting XI after a man-of-the-match performance against Southampton at the weekend.
The ex-skipper starred in his 100th appearance for the Black Cats, driving his side to a 1-0 win which took them into the last eight of the FA Cup.
And boss Gus Poyet confessed afterwards it will be difficult to leave the Teessider out of the team for forthcoming games, with Arsenal in the league this Saturday followed by Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final on Sunday week.
“Lee was great – I’m so glad we managed to keep hold of him in the transfer window – and the great thing now is that I have a dilemma with Liam Bridcutt!” said Poyet.
“I know that Liam cannot play in the final against Manchester City because he is cup-tied, so I have to think about Lee – and that might influence my thoughts in terms of the Arsenal game.”
Certainly, Cattermole played well enough to deserve to stay in Sunderland’s first-team plans.
The early signs are that the 25-year-old is raising his game in response to the arrival of former Brighton man Bridcutt as direct competition for the defensive midfield role.
But Cattermole was not the only player to do themselves proud in a game in which Poyet made nine changes to his league side and saw the deputising players rise to the challenge.
“Craig Gardner got a great goal, Fabio Borini enjoyed the chance to play up front, Emanuele Giaccherini played well, Santiago Vergini looks increasingly comfortable…I could go on,” admitted Sunderland’s head coach.
“That’s all good for us because, with so many games coming up, we need all the players to come to the party.
“We need players who can be key players for us to be on their best form. And we need those who can play a part to also give us their best.
“That was one of the reasons why I was pleased that Ondrej Celustka got a full 90 minutes under his belt – he needed them because he has to be ready.
“And Andrea Dossena too. If anything happens to Marcos Alonso, it will be Andrea who comes in – so to get some match practice into him was also a big help.”