'Sunderland supporters have their club back': Lee Cattermole reflects on superb support and a dramatic night at Fratton Park
The Sunderland squad and buoyant travelling support rejoiced as one as the Black Cats booked a second trip to Wembley in the space of two months.
And Lee Cattermole has heaped praise on his Sunderland teammates and the club’s fanatical fanbase, who he says ‘have their club back’.
A determined Sunderland side booked their place at the Wembley final on May 26 with a resolute display at Fratton Park, the goalless draw enough to seal a 1-0 aggregate victory over Portsmouth.
Cattermole described the performance as ‘different class’ with Jack Ross’ game plan executed perfectly, the midfield trio of Cattermole, Grant Leadbitter and Max Power controlling the game.
Jon McLaughlin produced an inspired display in goal with Sunderland’s defence helping keep the Pompey forward line at bay.
Thoughts will now turn to the Wembley final, a second trip for the Black Cats this year following the Checkatrade Trophy penalty shoot-out defeat to Portsmouth.
Cattermole, reflecting on the game, said: “If you go away from home with a one goal lead in a play-off semi-final then that is the performance you want.
“To a man over both legs the players have responded really well to a difficult end to the season and I thought we were different class, the gaffer said at half-time we could be better on the ball at the break, we knew that and we improved.
“Our mentality going into the game was really strong.
“We have now had two clean sheets against them, they are an experienced bunch of lads and we have had some tough games against them.
“We stood up, we did well and deserve to go through.
“Jon [McLaughlin] has been different class all season, week in week out different class and no different Thursday night - he has brought a real calmness to the squad all season.”
Cattermole was part of a midfield trio that helped control the game, especially in the second half, his experience invaluable over the two legs.
A second Wembley final of the season now awaits.
Sunderland, following successive relegations and under new ownership, had to rebuild last summer on and off the pitch with 12 new players added to a revamped squad.
The bond between the club and fanbase also had to be repaired after a dire few years at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland were backed by 1,300 supporters on the south coast.
Cattermole added: “It was really difficult [last summer] but everyone has really given everything on and off the pitch.
“The fans will think they have got their club back and we have worked hard at that, going out into the community, worked really hard off the pitch and got some massive attendances.
“We are on the right tracks but we still have a lot of work to do.”