LEE CATTERMOLE admits he would have gladly departed the Stadium of Light during the summer after being given the cold shoulder by Paolo Di Canio.
Cattermole was stripped of both the captaincy and his squad number by former head coach Di Canio and spent pre-season training with Sunderland’s Under-21s as he made his comeback from a knee injury.
Fulham were thought to have been among the Premier League clubs interested in Cattermole, who only penned a new contract with the Black Cats 12 months ago.
But Cattermole remained on Sunderland’s books and although Di Canio offered him a reprieve during the final fortnight of his reign, the midfielder says it was only with the introduction of caretaker boss Kevin Ball that he was given any “respect”.
“I came very close to leaving a couple of times,” said Cattermole.
“For whatever reason it didn’t happen. The way it was going I would have left happily.
“I wasn’t part of the manager’s plans and that can happen in football, but I’m here and while I’m a Sunderland player I’ll give everything for the cause to get us out of trouble.
“Things happened in the summer and there were a lot of things I was disappointed with from the club in terms of the way I was treated.
“I understand that is football, but there are ways of doing things. All you ever want is a bit of respect and Kevin Ball gave me that straight away.”
The former Middlesbrough man added: “I spoke to friends in the game. Colin Cooper, the Hartlepool manager, spoke to me at a behind-closed-doors game up here.
“I spoke to a lot of people and can’t really tell you what the conversations were.
“Colin Cooper joked you can always get a game with us … and I nearly took it! I just wanted to play football.
“If you are playing, winning, you are happy. I wasn’t playing so I wasn’t happy. I just kept working hard.
“I am more mature now, 100 per cent. The summer was a massive learning curve for me. It is the first time I have not been wanted my a manager.
“I turned round and I was quite happy with how I dealt with it. I kept my mouth shut. I kept my head down.
“The only thing I could affect was what happened if I got my chance. I kept training each day. A lot of the time I was running on my own. I think I’m fit but I need more games, match time.”
While Cattermole had his differences with Di Canio, he is fully behind his successor Gus Poyet.
The new head coach suffered a horrifying first game in charge against Swansea last weekend, but Cattermole insists it will take time for the Uruguayan to turn around the fortunes of the Premier League’s basement boys.
“I believe in the new manager who has come in,” added Cattermole.
“Anyone who speaks to him, he is unbelievably intelligent on football.
“But you are asking a guy who has been here for three weeks and who has worked with the players for a few days because of the international break, to turn things around.
“It’s not going to happen overnight.”