Lee Cattermole believes the survivors of the Steve Bruce era remain Sam Allardyce’s chief lieutenants in the relegation battle - even if they are not playing.
Midfielder Cattermole is one of four remaining players at the Stadium of Light that were signed by Bruce, who was sacked as Black Cats boss four-and-a-half years ago.
I think they’ve been the core of the team for the last three or four years and had a massive say in us staying upLee Cattermole
Some fans have accused Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Wes Brown and John O’Shea of being the common denominator in Sunderland’s annual troubles, yet behind the scenes, they have been the glue that has held the club together as it has lurched from one crisis to the next.
Only Cattermole is currently in the starting XI, albeit Larsson and O’Shea were both second half substitutes during last weekend’s victory at Norwich City.
But off-the-field, the quartet are ensuring Sunderland’s players have the right mind-set for the twists and turns of the relegation battle.
“If you see the players who’ve been here since Steve bought us, then it’s important they don’t get overlooked - Sheasy, Wes and Seb Larsson,” said Cattermole.
“I think they’ve been the core of the team for the last three or four years and had a massive say in us staying up.
“They’re still rallying around the dressing room now, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see from lads who aren’t playing.
“But I wouldn’t expect to see anything else from them.
“I’ve been the same this season; been left out the team, changing positions and you find yourself frustrated.
“But you’ve got to look away from yourself at times and think if the manager thinks it’s the best thing for the team, then you have to follow him.
“We’ve got a lot of good professionals in the squad and it’s important we do this again and hopefully not find ourselves in this position again after that.”
Reigning Player of the Year Larsson, in particular, has endured a frustrating campaign - losing his place under Dick Advocaat, spending three months on the treatment table and then unable to regain a starting spot since returning to fitness.
But while there are question marks over Larsson’s long-term future at Sunderland, Cattermole insists there has been no dip from the Swedish international on the training field.
“Seb trains every day and he wants to get back in. He does the running and keeps on top of things,” added the 28-year-old.
“I think Seb’s great and I’ll voice that to anybody.
“He’s not in at the minute, but if he got a chance, he’d take it and that’s what you want. Competition in the squad.
“I’m sure he’ll be needed at some point, and he put in a great half-hour in at Norwich to just solid things up for us.”