Lee Cattermole’s comments highlight Chris Coleman’s big challenge ahead of another turbulent summer

Boss Chris Coleman speaks to Lee Cattermole during Saturday's draw at Reading. Picture by Frank Reid
Boss Chris Coleman speaks to Lee Cattermole during Saturday's draw at Reading. Picture by Frank Reid
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It was an adrenaline-fuelled, surreal afternoon, but, speaking just moments after Sunderland completed their ‘Bristanbul’ comeback in February, Lee Cattermole offered a clear assessment of the side.

It was the same one he offered after Saturday’s frantic, occasionally uplifting, ultimately frustrating 2-2 draw at Reading.

“In terms of performance and attitude from the players in the last five games, that is what it takes to play for Sunderland,” he said.

“That is what you need to show – that attitude and desire to work for each other.

“I have said it for five or six years – it takes time and that is why we always finish seasons stronger than we start them, because we are changing 16, 17, 18 players every year.

“That is why it takes time. We look like a team now.”

It has been a feature of Cattermole’s time on Wearside, the squad looking utterly disorientated for much of the season before finding a rhythm and resilience in the closing stages.

Last season and this, it looks like it will be too little, too late.

For Sunderland supporters then, basic arithmetic will raise fears for the summer and (probable) League One campaign to come.

Seven loanees will return to their parent clubs, and the chances of any of them having another spell on Wearside seem slim. Four players are out of contract and will almost certainly be released.

Then there will be the inevitable turnover of players who move on in the event of relegation.

Sunderland will likely be open to offers for those who will not see their wages reduced.

It may well be then, that Cattermole himself is part of the upcoming upheaval. He will be one of the squad’s higher earners and, while boss Chris Coleman is a firm admirer of his mentality and leadership, both publicly and privately, all parties might see this as time for a fresh start.

Already, we are well on our way to the change of 16, 17 players that Cattermole mentions.

It is less than ideal. Throw into the mix uncertainty over the ownership of the club and the much earlier closing of the transfer window, and the Black Cats again face an uphill battle to prepared and united for the new campaign.

Coleman, then, has to strike a balance between making the significant changes required to shift the needle, and establishing some sort of continuity from the encouraging performances in recent weeks.

First and foremost, he needs someone above him, whether it be Ellis Short or a new owner, to quickly strengthen his hand with clarity over both budget and strategy.

Then he will hope to build around a core of young players who have shown desire, talent and athleticism this season.

Joel Asoro’s pace will trouble any defence, while George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch improve by the game.

He has already marked Paddy McNair out as a potential linchpin and, if Duncan Watmore can make a successful return, the outline of a dynamic team is there. Crucially, it will be players with a natural understanding and bond

Interestingly, he also picked out Callum McManaman as a potentially significant contributor moving forward.

Still just 26, the winger is showing glimpses of his talent and has impressed the manager with this response to a frustrating season.

Like teenage forward Josh Maja, Coleman believes he will be working with a massive asset if they can get through a full pre-season.

It is going to be another turbulent summer and that will again have consequences.

Opportunities for positive continuity are limited, making it imperative that Sunderland take them.