GUS POYET believes rejecting Stoke City’s January overtures for Lee Cattermole is the best piece of transfer business he has done during his Sunderland reign.
Cattermole again showed his worth with a man-of-the-match display in last weekend’s goalless draw against Swansea City, with the midfielder proving to be Sunderland’s most consistent performer so far this season.
But the Teessider could easily have been lining up against Sunderland in Stoke’s visit to the Stadium of Light this Saturday.
Sunderland gave serious consideration to Stoke’s £5million January offer for Cattermole after completing a deal for fellow defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt, with Poyet in two minds over whether to accept the deadline day bid.
But after Poyet consulted with Sunderland owner Ellis Short, the Black Cats opted to pull the plug on the proposed move and Cattermole - who had been frozen out and put up for sale by former head coach Paolo Di Canio - has become a pivotal figure.
Poyet told the Echo: “In transfer windows, it’s the best decision I have made. I’ve got no doubt about that.
“I’m sure, with all respect to Stoke and to Catts, he’s happier here.
“His reaction to the decision was spectacular.
“Because - and I’m not talking about Lee here - let’s say we get an offer from a top six team for a player and the offer is good but it is possible for you to say ‘no’.
“Then you don’t know what the reaction of the player will be after he has lost the chance to join a certain team.
“With everything that happened with Catts before we got here and the momentum of the team at that time in January - it was difficult.
“And with Liam coming in, he might have wondered how he fitted into the plan. That’s only natural.
“But I spoke to the owner, he said if I did not want to sell then I didn’t have to and I made the decision.
“And it has worked out well for everybody, I think.”
Cattermole, now Sunderland’s longest-serving player, started nine of the Black Cats’ final 10 Premier League games in their successful escape from the drop last season, while he also shone in the Capital One Cup final.
And despite Poyet’s eagerness to be reunited with former Brighton midfielder Bridcutt, the £2.5m January capture has been limited to two League Cup appearances this season.
Poyet added: “Imagine if we had lost a player like Lee in January - not just for his quality, but his character, too.
“He played in the cup final and then he was a key player in the run at the end of last season.
“So I think it was the most important decision we’ve made in the transfer window - with the help of the owner, I must add.
“The way we play and the way Lee covers and understands his role in the team - I wouldn’t buy anyone else to replace him.”