George Honeyman says long-serving Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole is a player he looks up to, and his return from injury will be a major boost for the Black Cats’ squad.
Cattermole is due back next month and has been stepping up his recovery in recent weeks.
The 28-year-old has made only three senior appearances this season, the last coming in the 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace in September.
Honeyman has since made his full Premier League debut and says that the tenacious ex-Boro midfielder’s all-action performances are something he would like to emulate.
He said: “When Catts gets back that will be a big boost. I love being around him because he’s one of the ones that mentally drags people through. Under his wing is not a bad place to be.
“I like to think I go at it every training session, every match, and I think he’s probably the biggest one for that – I just love his competitive spirit and it’s something I can draw from.”
Before Cattermole returns, the Black Cats will also be boosted by the return of Jordan Pickford and Jan Kirchhoff to the first-team fold.
Pickford is set for an imminent return to the XI, possibly at Everton on Saturday, while midfielder Kirchhoff was in full training on Monday afternoon.
While the injury crisis has been key in players like Honeyman getting a first-team opportunity, the 22-year-old says he welcomes extra competition in the squad.
When Cattermole and Kirchhoff return, Honeyman will be fighting alongside the pair for a place, as well as Darron Gibson, Jack Rodwell, Didier Ndong and Seb Larsson.
He said: “The more competition for places we can get, the harder everyone is going to train and play, and that’s just natural. That happens in any team.
“It’ll not be long until we have everyone back and we’ll be raring to go.”
It is a source of particular delight for Honeyman to see Pickford back in action, the pair coming through the ranks on Wearside together and enjoying a close friendship.
The goalkeeper looked in fine fettle during the club’s open training session this week, drawing plenty of gasps from the crowd with a number of superb saves.
Honeyman says that is testament to the impact Pickford can make in the run-in.
He said: “He made some cracking saves, didn’t he? Pickford’s probably my best mate in the team, so I’m really happy!
“Hopefully he’s back playing soon, competition in every place is what we want, we don’t want anybody’s place to be safe, he brings that.
“Just look at training, he’s shown what he can bring – his saves were incredible.”