Sunderland skipper Cattermole must strike balance – Gary Rowell column

Lee Cattermole

Lee Cattermole

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THE challenge which Lee Cattermole put in on Adam Chicksen at MK Dons was an automatic red card.

In my day it would have probably got him a pay rise and a pat on the back from the manager who would have gone on to tell the Press he’s exactly the sort of player he wants in his team.

That, in a nutshell, is what Lee Cattermole has to get his head around.

Football has changed.

In my day, you’d see some horrible challenges and unless the player was badly injured, you had a chance of escaping with a few words from the referee at best, or a yellow card at worst.

Football will always be a contact sport, but it is getting less and less so in terms of tolerance of bad tackles.

And while traditionalists, quite rightly, will bemoan the authorities’ efforts to make it more and more of a non-contact sport; modernists will also, quite rightly, insist we don’t want to return to the bad old days.

It’s all about striking a balance.

And that’s what Lee Cattermole has to do – to strike a balance between the aggression and will-to-win which is the best side of his game and the flip side of it – the recklessness, the rush of blood – which is the worst.

I know it will be incredibly hard for him to do that, because he is simply playing his natural game.

But that’s the point.

His natural game is one that would not have been out of place in the 70s, 80s and maybe even the 90s – because even Kevin Ball was allowed to get away with a lot that would not have been acceptable today.

But in 2012 you have to be aware – and we can argue about the rights and wrongs of it – that you can’t get away with the sort of challenge Lee made on Tuesday.

I feel for him because I like him as a player and I do feel he is a bit of a marked man – there’s challenges he makes that other players wouldn’t get a yellow for, but he does.

That’s unfortunate for him.

But he has to learn how to deal with it. And he’ll have the space now of the three games he’s missing, to ponder exactly how he deals with it.

READ the full Gary Rowell column in Thursday’s Echo