Lee Cattermole on Sunderland’s big selection dilemmas and competition for places

Lee Cattermole takes part in the Coral SAFC golf challenge.
Lee Cattermole takes part in the Coral SAFC golf challenge.
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Lee Cattermole sympathises with Chris Coleman as he searches for his best Sunderland XI, but believes the added competition will be a major advantage for the Black Cats as they battle the drop.

Another busy transfer window saw five new players arrive while Coleman is also preparing to welcome Paddy McNair, Jonny Williams and Lamine back to the fold.

Sunderland switched to a flat back four against Bristol City as they fought back from three goals down to draw, with Coleman admitting he could change the formation this weekend as a result.

Cattermole believes that variety is good for the squad on the whole.

He said: “Joel plays at home through the middle at Hull and causes havoc and on Saturday he hadn’t really shown until he did what he did from a wide position. It’s difficult for the manager to then work out what’s his best position. That’s all the stuff we’re trying to work out - where’s best to put people to get the best out of them. Joel’s different class. He’s got that pace to beat a man in the final third and I think that’s what really changed it for us. We got crosses in the box in the second half.

“With Aiden {McGeady], he will be the first to say he hasn’t contributed as much as he would have liked. At the start of the season he was scoring goals and he hasn’t played as much of late but he’s still got a lot to offer for us. I’m sure he’s going to have a big finish to the season as well.

“For me George Honeyman was different class. For 75 minutes he was on it and I thought he was our best player but he gets taken off. The gaffer could have taken anyone off at that stage.

“But as a group the impact the subs can have is massive for us.

“Kaz came on and he’s done great when he’s come on, so he’s knocking on the door as well. That competition is healthy, that’s what we want.”

There’s been a lot of change again in January, and the mood is very good,” he added.

“Despite the season we’ve had there are lot of positives, the younger players coming through which is exciting, everybody wants to be here which is big for the gaffer.

“The lads he has brought in are all good lads and they’ll be looking to use this as a platform to show what they’re all about. It is an amazing opportunity to play first team football at a big club in a big stadium, it isn’t going to be easy for them, but it will stand them in great stead for the future.

“The people coming in are massively impressed with what we’ve got here as a club and as a city. They’re all seeing how big it is, the facilities, the stadium, the fans. They want to rise to that challenge and that will help us, the commitment has been there we’ve just been short of quality at times.

“We need bodies back, once we get the injured lads back the levels in training will rise again because everyone wants that spot in the team. Especially with the ruling on the loan players, if they’re in the squad then they’re probably going to start so that just puts the challenge down to everyone.”

Sunderland face a defining week in their season but Cattermole says the squad can only focus on the clash with Brentford this Saturday.

He said: “We can talk about a big week and of course it is but we’ve got to beat Brentford. All we can do is focus on that first and foremost. We were in Sunday, back on the grass Tuesday, straight into shape and getting ready. We had two really tough sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, no one wanted to get into 5-a-side or anything like that, it has been all business and hopefully that can pay off on Saturday.

“Hopefully what happened at Ashton Gate can gives the confidence to say, get on the front foot, don’t worry about what’s in behind and the prospect of going behind. That might happen, but we know we can come back from that position and that should give us a lot of belief.”