In many ways Lee Cattermole would have been a great captain for Sunderland this season.
The 30-year-old midfielder is the club’s longest serving player, leads by example and has a strong rapport with the younger crop of players coming through.
But Cattermole believes his manager, Jack Ross, made the right decision by handing the captain’s armband to George Honeyman in the summer, when the club were searching for a fresh start following their relegation to League One.
“George has taken to the role absolutely brilliantly,” Cattermole told the Echo.
“From day one when the gaffer offered him the captaincy, I think it suited the club and where we’re going.”
Cattermole signed for Sunderland back in 2009 and has been part of several different teams during that time.
And as one of the squad’s more experienced players, the central midfielder has been keen to encourage the club’s next generation.
Since Ross’ arrival on Wearside, the Scot has built his team around some of Sunderland’s younger players, while also promoting prospects from the club’s academy.
Alongside Honeyman, Ross has consistently backed Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch, while Bali Mumba, Denver Hume and Ethan Robson have also been allowed to showcase their talents for the senior side.
Cattermole believes the current group have all the qualities to take the club forward, with Sunderland’s new owners targeting a return to the Premier League.
The midfielder also thinks Honeyman is the right man to take Sunderland on that journey, and has the respect of his peers.
“I think the younger squad of players, I’ve been part of different groups of players, like Goochy (Lynden Gooch), George (Honeyman) and Duncan (Watmore), they’re a good group at a
good age where they can really take the club forward,” said Cattermole.
“George leads by example every day at training and you can see his energy on the pitch and his willingness to do things for other players.
“He’s a real competitor and you can’t speak highly enough of George, he’s doing a great job.”
After missing Sunderland’s game against Peterborough through injury at the start of October, Honeyman was left out of the starting XI for the games against Bradford and Shrewsbury.
Sunderland’s captain responded brilliantly after coming off the bench at New Meadow, and scored his second league goal of the season against Southend two games later.
In Honeyman’s absence, Max Power and Cattermole wore the captain’s armband for the Black Cats, and the latter believes there are plenty of others who can lead the team if their regular
skipper isn’t available.
“We’re all playing in positions on the pitch where there’s so much competition so we’re going to be getting changed,” added Cattermole.
“But there are lads who can captain the team if George is, for whatever reason, not in the team.
“He’s done a great job and will continue to improve as a player.”