LEE CATTERMOLE believes Sunderland will start this season as a far more cohesive unit than the one which kicked off the campaign under Paolo Di Canio 12 months ago.
Cattermole was banished from the first-team picture at the Stadium of Light this time last year after a clash with then boss Di Canio saw him training with the Sunderland Under-21 squad.
But the midfielder, stripped of the captaincy by Di Canio, watched from the stands as Sunderland toiled at the start of the campaign after taking just a solitary point from the opening eight games before Gus Poyet sparked a dramatic revival.
Cattermole does not expect a repeat scenario in the opening weeks of this season though, with the 26-year-old encouraged by the work Poyet has overseen during this pre-season after Sunderland’s friendly programme concluded with a 2-0 victory over Udinese on Saturday.
“As people know, I wasn’t really involved last summer so I can’t really comment on the pre-season,” said Cattermole.
“But I watched the games at the start of last season and I think you’ll see a different Sunderland this season in terms of everyone knowing their jobs.
“Everything has gone great through pre-season. It’s been very positive and I think we’ve carried on from where we left off last season.
“We’ve got to take that into Saturday at West Brom and look to start the season on the front foot.
“We’ve come through with not many injuries - we’ve lost (Emanuele) Giaccherini, but other than that, the lads have come through.
“As you can see in the games, we look very well organised and we’re playing well.
“But the season starts next week, which will be a little bit different.
“We’ll take what we’ve worked on through pre-season and hope to carry that on.”
Cattermole became a key figure under Poyet last season, particularly during the run-in which saw Sunderland remain in the Premier League.
And the Teessider is expected to get the nod ahead of fellow defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt for next weekend’s opening day trip to West Brom.
“I feel absolutely brilliant. It’s been a good pre-season after a good break,” added Cattermole.
“We’ve come back and we’ve had a good five or six weeks of real hard graft.
“We’ve got lads competing for places which is healthy.
“Everyone is pushing everyone else on to improve. I feel like my game is in good shape.
“I’ve worked hard, so if I start the season that’s great.
“But it’s a long season and we’ll need all the bodies we’ve got.
“The squad is getting stronger and everyone will be fighting for places. I’m sure whoever is on the pitch will have the backing of whoever is on the bench.”