LEE CATTERMOLE admits the summer will provide a welcome respite after experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions this season.
Cattermole has endured the most turbulent campaign of his career after his time at Sunderland looked to have reached a dead-end less than 12 months ago.
The midfielder was forced to train with the Under-21s after falling out of favour with then head coach Paolo Di Canio and was touted around by Sunderland as they looked to offload the former Middlesbrough man.
But Cattermole outlasted Di Canio and became a key figure under Gus Poyet before there was fresh speculation over his future in the January transfer window.
Sunderland rejected a deadline day offer of £5million from Stoke City for the 26-year-old and it proved to be a crucial decision after he played an integral role in the Black Cats’ remarkable escape from relegation.
Yet the see-saw campaign has left Cattermole drained and he is glad to get the opportunity to recharge his batteries during the close season.
Cattermole told the Echo: “I can’t wait for the summer.
“This season has been tough, but now I’ve got a nice summer to look forwards to.
“It’s been a good season with us staying up and a great experience. But I have to thank all my friends and family who’ve been around me because it’s been tough at some points.
“Hopefully, I can come back stronger next year.”
Cattermole was hugely influential during the run-in after producing arguably his best performances in a Sunderland shirt, as Poyet’s side jumped from the Premier League’s basement to a 14th-place finish.
The Teessider believes Poyet played a crucial role in prompting that run of form after giving him a more controlled role in front of the back four.
But Cattermole also says he was desperate to give everything during Sunderland’s survival bid, to ensure fingers could not be pointed at him if the Wearsiders did suffer relegation.
He added: “I’m honest and if we had gone down, I didn’t want people looking at me, saying ‘what’s he doing on the beach?’
“I want to know myself that I deserve to relax because I couldn’t have done any more.
“Sometimes, in a team game, you can’t do any more and other people let you down.
“But, fortunately for us, we all pulled together and did great.
“The manager takes a lot of the credit.
“On a personal note, I’ve learned a hell of a lot off him. I’m sure a lot of the players have.
“We’ve listened to his advice.
“He’s been fantastic, as have all the players as well.
“There’s loads of little cogs in the big wheel. If some of them don’t work, the whole thing doesn’t work.
“When we get it right, we proved we can do it against the biggest and best teams.
“Fortunately for us, we got it right at the end and really became a good team.”