LEE CATTERMOLE admits Sunderland are somewhat stepping into the unknown against new-look West Brom tomorrow.
Sunderland’s Stadium of Light victory over the Baggies last May guaranteed Premier League survival for the Black Cats and capped a remarkable escape from the jaws of relegation for Gus Poyet’s side.
But Sunderland, who have lost their last five visits to the Hawthorns, will face a very different West Brom outfit in this weekend’s top flight curtain raiser.
Ex-Sheffield Wednesday boss Alan Irvine will take charge for the first time after the brief tenure of Spaniard Pepe Mel, while the Baggies have already brought eight players to the club this summer - including ex-Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner.
Cattermole told the Echo: “We don’t really know what to expect.
“The manager has had people there watching them in their pre-season games and we’ve had a look at them this week.
“But they’ll have a new buzz with a new manager.
“They’re a quality side and we’ve always found it difficult there. It will be nice to see Gards and there’s Sessy (Stephane Sessegnon) there as well.
“But it couldn’t have gone any better for us during pre-season, so we’ll go there and look to get off to a good start.
“We can’t expect too much, but at the same time, we’ve got to be confident going into the game.”
Like West Brom, Sunderland have been active in the transfer market this summer, with the capture of winger Will Buckley from Brighton taking the club’s tally of incomings to seven.
The biggest of Sunderland’s buys, £10million England international Jack Rodwell, will make his Black Cats debut tomorrow alongside Cattermole in the middle of the park.
And Cattermole, now the longest-serving member of Sunderland’s squad, believes Rodwell will be a key figure this season after lining up alongside the ex-Manchester City man during his England Under-21 days.
“I’ve known Jack for a lot of years and he’s always had quality,” added Cattermole.
“I spoke to him the other day and said this will be a great opportunity for him to progress his career.
“It’s a chance for him to get on the pitch and show people what he is all about. Obviously, he’s had injuries, but he’ll come here, play and get games under his belt.
“I know myself through injuries that you only get stronger as you play.
“We’ll see a lot of him this year and I’m sure he’ll be a big asset for us.
“It’s fair play to the manager and his staff (for signing him).
“If you’d watched the games we played last season, he’ll have seen the way the gaffer wants to play. I think that was a big drawer for him.
“Players want to be part of that. I know that myself. If you’re playing a certain way, you enjoy it.”