IT’S AMAZING to think that this time last year, Lee Cattermole was so far out of the picture at Sunderland, he didn’t even have a squad number.
Paolo Di Canio didn’t try to hide the fact that not only did he want him out of the team, he wanted him out of the club altogether.
Tweleve months on and there’s no player proving to be more important than Cattermole, as he’s taken on the role of being the heartbeat of the team.
He was Sunderland’s man of the match in the first two games against West Brom and Manchester United, and he’s proving his critics wrong - and there were plenty of them, not just Di Canio.
One of the things levelled at him is the tired and untrue charge that his disciplinary record makes him a liability and a walking red card, ignoring the fact that he’s only had one dismissal in the last two years.
I can think of many players with a far worse record than that.
It’s true when he first joined the club that he had problems in that area, but he’s cleaned up his act and learned to get the balance right between being competitive and agressive, while still being in control and keeping his discipline.
Another criticism is that his distribution isn’t good enough and he offers little going forward, which anyone who watches Sunderland regularly would disagree with, as he’s improved this area of his game enormously and now rarely gives the ball away cheaply.
The England squad which has just been announced didn’t include Cattermole’s name and I wasn’t surprised, as he still has a bit to do and his reputation still goes before him.
Once you’re given a negative label, it’s hard to shake it off.
Despite that though, if he produces consistently good performances in the Premier League, it won’t go unnoticed and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think he can force his way into future international squads, but only if he continues to avoid unnecessary suspensions.
Even in his dark days when he was missing more games than playing, due to injury and suspension, I always felt he had more to offer and Sunderland were a better team when he was in it.
Cattermole is at that stage of his career now when he’s entering his peak years. He’s had his problems in the past, but that will make him stronger and it’s now down to Lee himself to see how far he can go.