Sunderland's Lee Cattermole up for the fight

23 April 2011 01:27
Twenty two minutes are on the clock at the DW Stadium, Wigan. Hugo Rodallega is chasing the ball into the corner, Lee Cattermole in pursuit.

It is Cattermole's third game as Sunderland captain. Sent off against Birmingham in his first, and back on familiar territory at his former club, Cattermole should be on his best behaviour. He is already on a yellow card.

When the ball escapes from Rodallega's toes from a poor touch, Cattermole knows he has no chance of reaching it. But he dives full length anyway.

Walk of shame: Lee Catermole (centre) is sent off against Wigan

'I was never going to make the tackle, although at one point I did think maybe I would get there,' he says. But then adds. 'Perhaps he was just too quick for me.' 

Even Steve Bruce struggled to hide his disgust as Cattermole made the lonely walk across  the pitch. Cattermole will never forget it. 'It was embarrassing,' he said. 'It hurt me.' 

For Sunderland fans, the debate over his right to keep the armband started immediately. Bruce, however, had no doubts. And Cattermole remains his captain.

'I just let him stew,' said the Sunderland manager. 'When you're up against it, it's nice to have a bit of support and if I'd kicked him then, it would not have been the right thing to do. He is the right choice. He'll be pivotal for the next few weeks.' 

Cattermole revealed: 'He didn't speak to me for about 10 days. But I didn't want to speak to him. We weren't blanking each other, we still said hello he's always great like that but he knew I knew.

'I didn't want to speak to  anyone for the whole week. I was coming in, training hard and taking my frustrations out there.

Tough times: Steve Bruce has seen his Sunderland slip into the relegation battle

'He pulled me before the Liverpool away game, didn't mention the armband once. He just said "You've got nothing to prove, I know what you can do'. But he did say, 'Don't make a tackle'.

'And I nearly got booked in the first minute, if you remember. But I'd had a chat with the referee before the game, asked him to look after me!' He smiles.

If anyone wants to end Sunderland's dismal run for Bruce, it is Cattermole. He signed Cattermole from Middlesbrough for Wigan, then made the former England Under 21 midfielder his first target when he took over at Sunderland last season. Their union has cost Bruce's employers ?10million.

'I didn't really want to come back to the North East yet, but it was for the manager,' he said.

'I had such a big first year under him and he came here because he has the ambition  to take the club into Europe, which is what we all want. It's what I want. 

'We have the fan-base, look at the signings the gaffer made last summer, the football we played until the New Year.

Happier times: Sunderland have slipped from sixth place into a relegation battle

'Expectations have changed since he took over. He's brought stability, which is important, and the fact people were talking about Europe shows how far we've come.

'He's a winner. He gets very close to the players. He has his standards and if players don't match them, he's quick to tell them what he expects. He's been brilliant for me.' 

One point in nine and a fall from sixth to 15th since Darren Bent left are difficult to stomach for Bruce and his players. But a win in today's re-match with Wigan should mean safety.

Cattermole said: 'The manager has laid his cards on the table and we've expressed our feelings, which is what you do at times like this, because you can't bottle things up. 

'We have two home games now. Earlier in the season we would have relished them, thinking this is six points here, that's how confident we were. Now we have to go out, be confident, show desire, a good tempo and give the fans what they want.

'We're still aiming for the top 10. The gaffer has told us it would be only the third time in 55 years that Sunderland have done that, which shows what a massive achievement it would be.'

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Source: Daily_Mail