LEE Cattermole could develop into a midfielder as influential on the Premier League as Scott Parker.
That’s the view of Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas as he reflects on Martin O’Neill’s first two-and-half months in the Sunderland hot-seat.
Several of Sunderland’s players have been rejuvenated under O’Neill, but it is Cattermole, right, who has provided the yardstick after becoming a scapegoat under former boss Steve Bruce.
Nicholas said: “Stephane Sessegnon is a clever little footballer, who looks to run at defenders which they are never comfortable with, while Seb Larsson is as good as anyone in the Premier League from set pieces.
“But I have done a couple of Sunderland games since Martin O’Neill took over and the one who has stood out for me has been Lee Cattermole.
“He was unbelievable against Manchester City and for me, he was as good as Scott Parker that day.
“He looked as if he had swallowed a Duracell battery because he ran all day and tackled ferociously.
“If he can continue to control his head, then he could develop into a really influential player because I have always liked him and I can understand why Steve Bruce took him from Wigan.
“He is a little terrier, but he needs to make sure he keeps possession as well as winning it back.”
Former Scotland international Nicholas has not been surprised by O’Neill’s impact at the Stadium of Light, after crossing paths with the Ulsterman during his stint as Celtic boss.
“Martin has got great ability even though he was out of the game for a while,” he added.
“Whenever you speak to him, his presence of character immediately comes across.
“He’s got that deep intelligence and a bit of Irish wit which makes that average player a lot better.
“He’s earned that instant respect off everyone ever since he walked through the door.
“Stevie Bruce ended up with so much bad luck and whether he was the right man or not due to his Newcastle links is up to the Sunderland fans.
“But Martin has built on the back of what Steve did.
“He is brilliant at getting that response from players by giving them all an opportunity.”