LEE CATTERMOLE insists his starting spot cannot be taken for granted with fellow defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt pushing hard for first-team inclusion.
Cattermole went straight back into the side after suspension in last weekend’s goalless draw at Leicester City, despite Bridcutt impressing in Sunderland’s previous outing against Everton.
That was Bridcutt’s first Premier League start of the season, with Cattermole’s form restricting the former Brighton man to a bit-part role.
Despite both players lining up together in midfield for the final 15 minutes at the King Power Stadium, Poyet is likely to persist with an either / or policy and Cattermole is currently an integral cog in the Uruguayan’s line-up.
But Cattermole is well aware of the esteem held by Poyet for Bridcutt and expects there to be a period this season when the ex-Brighton man forces his way into the starting XI.
Cattermole told the Echo: “I think I always have to be on my toes. I always have been and more so since he came.
“He’s a good player and he plays that role similar to me.
“But that’s what the squad needs. You’ll see when (Ricky) Alvarez comes in, Jonno’s (Adam Johnson) performances will improve, and when (Emanuele) Giaccherini comes back, the same with Connor (Wickham).
“At the end of the day, it’s not about who plays, it’s not personal, we’re a team.
“All the talk seems to be about me or Liam, but there are going to be times when I need to miss games and he’ll come in and have a good run.
“That’s what a squad’s about.”
A point at Leicester was Sunderland’s seventh draw from 12 Premier League outings, with no top flight side finishing all-square as frequently as the Black Cats this season.
However, Cattermole is pleased with Sunderland’s generally solid start to the campaign after five points from the last three games.
Sunderland have faced just one side outside the current top half at the Stadium of Light - last month’s victory over Stoke City - with that tough run of home fixtures continuing against Chelsea and Manchester City over the next seven days.
“I feel the club is heading in the right direction and if we can have a good run between now Christmas, we can maybe not turn the season around because it’s not gone wrong, but kick on from here and look to push further up,” said Cattermole.
“I think it’s been a good start.
“I think if you look at the home games we’ve had, they’ve all been difficult.
“Maybe there’s only the Stoke game you’d look at as one we should have won and we did win.
“But other than that, Swansea have been flying, and the others are tough - Tottenham, Man U, Everton.
“It’s a long season and we know that.
“That’s why it was so important against Crystal Palace to nip that little bad run in the bud because if you go there and lose, you’re suddenly on that slippery slope and you’ve got Everton next and it’s difficult to get out of it.
“That’s when the confidence can go out of the team and you find yourself under pressure.”