LEE CATTERMOLE says the return of Sunderland’s late arrivals provides a boost for the finale to the Black Cats’ pre-season programme.
Internationals John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, James McClean, Keiren Westwood, Ahmed Elmohamady and Stephane Sessegnon are all now back at the Academy of Light after being given a fortnight’s extra leave due to their exertions for their countries during the summer.
Sunderland’s squad has been thin on the ground for the opening three pre-season friendlies, with boss Martin O’Neill forced to include several youngsters to make up the numbers.
Although Elmohamady and Sessegnon will both miss Saturday’s trip to Swedish champions Helsingborgs, the African duo should both feature in next week’s final two friendlies at Derby and Leicester.
And skipper Cattermole believes having virtually a full quota of players again will ensure Sunderland are a different proposition in the next three games after losing two of their three friendlies so far.
Cattermole told the Echo: “Four or five bodies have filled the changing room up a bit.
“I know the young lads have been with us a lot and they’ve done great, but getting the senior players back in gives everyone a big boost.
“Three of them are attacking players too in Seb, Sess and McClean. They’re three massive players for us going forward.
“It’s been great to have them back for us.”
The 24-year-old added: “We’ve got a few more games coming up now, the game in Sweden and then two in a week with the Derby and Leicester ones.
“By the time the Derby and Leicester ones come around, I think you’ll see a much stronger team.”
Sunderland’s players have endured an intense week on the training field, as O’Neill gets the first sustained opportunity to work with his squad after the Black Cats headed to South Korea just five days into the pre-season campaign.
But Cattermole believes Sunderland’s participation in the Peace Cup was valuable despite the 12,000 mile round journey.
Cattermole added: “It was a great trip. We had a week there and the hospitality was really good.
“It was tough with the time difference, but we’ve come back from there, trained every day and we’re feeling good.
“It was very warm, but it was good together with the lads.
“A lot of people have asked whether it was too far and maybe it was, but we’re not going to change it and everyone enjoyed it.”