Prejudice and all that: coming to Lee Cattermole’s defence

Image (from Munster v SAFC): L09C

Salut! Sunderland makes no apology for rebuking Lee Cattermole for his failure, for a second time in only three games this season, to stay on the pitch for all of one half. But we like a good argument. As if in quick response to my appeal for help when a forthcoming operation restricts my ability to post, Geoff Bethell pops up from New Zealand with a refreshingly different analysis …

I haven’t
lived in Sunderland since 1961. I haven’t been there since 1968. I haven’t lived in the UK since 1970.

But out here in the glorious rugby-playing nation of NZ it’s still the case that to be a whole human being you can no more give up your love of Sunderland AFC than you can your brain.

Since the advent of the internet, keeping in touch has become so much easier. So it was on Sunday morning (we’re 11 hours ahead of UK) that I went on to as usual for the results.

One-one away to Wigan. I’d hoped for better, feared for worse, but appreciated that 1-1 was acceptable. Was it a point well won or two points thrown away? The match reports and comments were the next things to check up on. It was then I lost it.

“Oh for eff’s sake.”

“What a complete and utter cretin.”

“Why do we persist with this twerp?”

It was two days later when something else happened. I actually SAW the incident leading up to the 2nd yellow. I had a very different reaction.


You see, it’s very easy being a football supporter. It’s a wonderful outlet for the more basic parts of one’s character. You know that prejudice is a bad thing but – jeez you don’t think that applies to football supporting.

What I actually SAW was a Wigan breakaway with the Sunderland right back out of position and Lee Cattermole scrambling across to cover and standing between 0-0 and Wigan laying on the opener from the bye-line. He’d already been booked and it was down to him – AGAIN. Well LC is never one to hide during a game is he? He had a split second or two to decide what to do. In the Royal Navy there’s a saying “you can’t go far wrong if you place your ship in front of the enemy”. So I ask all you supporters: “What would YOU have done to benefit Sunderland AFC in that situation?” You’d have let the Wigan player go of course. Yeah, right.

The aftermath hasn’t been pretty. His boss has had a go at him. He’s been fined.

The problem you see is that Bruce has been unlucky. The correct timing for the Lee Cattermole last-chance saloon has unfortunately coincided with a situation in which LC is defendable.

But Bruce has instead opted for the last chance saloon anyway. I think this is a mistake because LC must be wondering where the line should be drawn. It’s like one-day cricket when you’ve lost some early wickets and you are miles behind in the scoring rate – “take some risks and score quickly but don’t get out”.

Given what Steve Bruce has done I have a few questions for him:

* What constitutes an acceptable yellow card that you take for the team? Are you going to detail this to Lee Cattermole?

* Do you consider this current 2nd yellow was defendable – and why, or why not?

* What were the comments in public and the fine designed to achieve?

* Are you going to give Lee Cattermole PRACTICAL ADVICE on where AND HOW to draw the line?

* What type of further mistake would cause Lee Cattermole’s exclusion from further first team selection? What wouldn’t?

Obviously our manager has to call it as he sees it. He’s an expert on football and that is what he’s paid for. I just feel that for this particular incident he has the human psychology wrong. I think he needed to play it down and deal with it internally at a purely helpfully professional level.

14 thoughts on “Prejudice and all that: coming to Lee Cattermole’s defence”

  1. Well Geoff for your benefit. Did you see the coverage of the Birmingham City match? Because if you did the first yellow cards in each match were carbon copies. Halfway line and opponent on the ball. Catts is what Ian Holloway calls touch tight. He is jostling and hassling the other player but then puts his arm around him and gives a little tug. Hardly a heinous crime and not deserving of yellows on their own in my opinion. Other players get away the same thing with more often than not and not many penalties are given for that amount of contact. But he got booked in both games. Catts has to realise that is going to happen and his actions hardly changed the course of the game. But on both occasions the refs set the tone and more bookings followed for several players. Against Wigan had he not already seen yellow then this debate wouldn’t be ongoing. He would have been booked for a mistimed tackle in the RB spot no argument. Most fans would have accepted it as an attempt to prevent a goalscoring opportunity. It’s the other three yellows and LC’s inability to be less impulsive having already been booked that rankles.

  2. Thank you all for these posts. It seems I’m not a minority of one after all. The one disadvantage I had in writing this was not having seen the FIRST card. Is there a good analysis of what happened anywhere to be found? Or can someone post one 🙂

    LC needs help not a big stick. He’s a “good lad”, cares deeply about his game and about his contribution to the team effort. If I were currently in his position I’d be at an absolute loss as to know where to go from here. He’s damned if he does, neutered if he doesn’t but all that’s required is an “adjustment”. There’s a HUGE mentoring role for the manager here – something I suspect will already be happening anyway. I hope this has a happy outcome but it’s a work-in-progress and won’t happen overnight.

  3. Good post Geoff ,

    My initial reaction being at the match was “what the hell is Cattermole (already on 1 yellow card) doing as last man on the halway line when we have a free kick , corner or whatever it was . I feel the same as you – he had to make the challenge – but he should never have been in that position .

    ps being 11 hours ahead of us -can you send me the lottery numbers saturday morning mate , I’ll see you ok !

  4. I strongly suspect that we would be four points better off and much higher up the table, looking comfortable before this run of difficult fixtures, had Cattermole played with a tad more savvy! Whilst we all admire his “Roy Keane- esque” type qualities, some of his challenges are befitting of Geoff’s initial “cretin/twerp” typecast, especially considering the now-familiar “up-hill battles” we face repeatedly. It’s becoming somewhat nauseating watching Lee slope off the pitch with his head down not to be seen on the field of play again for another 180 minutes of playing time.

    Personally – I think he got off lightly with a fine, and a mild public condemnation. I would have been more inclined to strip him of the captaincy after recklessly going to ground four whole minutes after being booked for wrestling, especially considering his sending off two games earlier. However, Luke Edwards from the Journal wrote a decent article about Sir Alex’s handling of Roy Keane in similar circumstances, which went some way towards appeasing my contempt for the lad! Notwithstanding that, it is obvious that Lee needs to perform with a little more intelligence.

    Five thousand fans made the trip to Wigan, only to be let down once again by an over-zealous, somewhat stupid, so-called captain! If you watch his reaction to his first booking, his (world class) response was to scream “F*#* off” at the ref. How many times has a referee rescinded a yellow card by being told to go forth and add to the population?? In fact “human psychology” dictates that the referee, having been told to “foxtrot oscar” by a petulant law-breaker is more likely to brandish another yellow as penance!

    Steve Bruce called it right – as usual. “What do do or say” following an incident likely to arouse political assessment in the melting pot of opinionated onlookers!!! Any manager – as Geoff demonstrates is “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t” in such circumstances. In truth, I’m sure behind the scenes Mr Bruce is fostering Lee’s combative tendencies, emphasizing the need not to do (or say) anything stupid – that ultimately costs the club dearly. Retaining the captaincy was an acknowledgement of the continuing faith Steve has in his wayward understudy. Surely after his MILD rebuke, the scales have been healthily balanced.

    What would you have done Geoff? Sent the lad to Centre Parks” for a nice break? “You’ve cost us four points Lee, here’s a nice new Mercedes and a bunch of tulips for the Mrs”. Now that’s the human psychology I’M TALKING ABOUT!!!

    Lee C – if you happen to read this – what’s it to be youngster? Roy Keane – or Joey Barton?

  5. I was hacked off with Cattermole for starting the season so stupidly. I expressed my concerns about him on another messageboard, but I also came down more gently on him this time round.

    I do think the first booking was harsh but Cattermole needs to develop the maturity to understand that refs do single him out because of reputation so he doesn’t need to make things that easy. As to the second booking, Brucey was saying he and his coaches were hoping Catts would stay on his feet. He probably did think he was making a fair challenge, but I think he made a clumsy one and gave the ref no choice. So in other words I dont think Catts has any excuses on either card.

    However, I come down gently precisely because of the other point raised above. Where was Onouha when we needed him? Catts was the only player to react quickly enough when their goalie intelligently caught the ball and released it quickly catching the rest of the team out. At least he was trying to get in place to make the tackle.

    I still hold the hope that Catts will learn maturity (the hard way) because if he does start making intelligent decisions allied to his great passion for the game and for winning, he will be one hell of a player

  6. I think he decided he made a good pundit.

    Who doesn’t love Robbie “Thats a good point sir, however I disagree with it and I’m a professional therefore I’m right and you’re wrong” Savage? Oh yes, most people – that’s right.

  7. Good post. In response Michael has said everything for me and indeed what I have posted elsewhere on Salut Sunderland. I can defend LC’s 2nd yellow card against Wigan for all the reasons Geoff gives. But at the risk of repeating myself ad infinitum the two against Birmingham and the 1st at Wigan were stupid. I’m not going to cast aspersions on Cattermole’s intellect except to say that I wouldn’t expect him to be in the mind of Graham Le Saux when he’s sorting out his pub quiz team. However, surely he can see his actions have to be more considered and it is up to the coaching staff to educate him.

    Incidentally though I didn’t hear it myself, apparantly on BBC Radio 5 Live, the intellectual giant that is Robbie Savage was advocating that 10 year olds be taught how to pull shirts and generally niggle the opposition. Whoever decided he’d make a good pundit?

  8. I think his reputation exceeds him, he’s a marked man now (like Cana last season) so knows he’s under intense scrutiny. Five fouls this season and four yellows speaks volumes.

    At the same time there’s no smoke without fire (except with a smoke machine) and he can be a (not intentionally) dirty player and sometimes the cautions he get are fully justified.

    This fence I’m sat on is starting to itch my backside.

  9. If this was one unfortunate game for Cattermole, there would be room for sympathy. But it’s pattern behaviour. The guy does it over and over and that makes him a target for referees to put their stamp on the game early. If he’s too dense/self-centred/whatever to realize this, then it’s up to Bruce to get it into his head — that, yes, what might be a caution for another player will be a yellow card for LC. This may not be entirely fair but it’s something he’s brought upon himself.
    And — do the math, Lee — two yellow cards add up to a red. That’s something else he doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to.

  10. I agree that it was the first yellow that was the problem – IIRC it was a stupid shirt-pulling type of thing that achieved nothing. It’s those sort of challenges that should be much easier to change – just think for a second and don’t do it. Changing his whole style of play by not going in with a tackle would be much harder and I’m not sure I’d want him to do it. I’m sure LC will be relieved to know that I won’t be booing him on Saturday…

  11. I agree with Geoff Bethal in that Cattermole had do try and stop the Wigan player for the second booking. As I saw it Cattermole did not set out to deliberately foul the player, he honestly put in a tackle to try and win the ball unfortunately his timing was out. Referees need to know the difference between a genuine attempt to get the ball and a deliberate foul thats the problem. Regarding the first booking why couldn’t the referee give Cattermole a warning it was his first offence if you can call it that. All he was doing was trying to get behind the player to get the ball. How many times in a game to you see pushing and pulling in the box at corners and the referee turns a blind eye. I blame the referee not Cattermole

  12. It’s a good read and I do agree with what is being said. I mentioned on a previous article that I have no problems with the second yellow card as I agree he was doing his best to get to the RB position and prevent an inevitable goal. It’s the first booking that was the problem! It was stupid and it did no favours what so ever. The man was in the middle of the park going absolutely nowhere. He needs to stop the stupid yellows i.e kicking the ball away like in the B’ham game if he wants to keep up his competitive game.

    Possible answers to some of your questions???

    * What constitutes an acceptable yellow card that you take for the team? Are you going to detail this to Lee Cattermole? — “SB stated after the B’ham game and Wigan game that it is the “silly” bookings that he needs to stop. Getting booked for kicking a ball away and/or putting your arm across or blocking off an opposing player in no mans land is unacceptable. Surely a professional footballer doesn’t need to be told this from his manager”?

    * What were the comments in public and the fine designed to achieve? — “To appease the angry fans I suppose. I think there would be a lot of pi**ed off people if SB never come out and had a go at him. We all paid a lot of money to go and see them play and it was ruined within 22 mins (admiringly it could have been worse).”

    * What type of further mistake would cause Lee Cattermole’s exclusion from further first team selection? What wouldn’t? — “I would assume this is the same as in any walk in life; if you keep making the same mistakes then you clearly are not learning and you have a problem.”

  13. All comments welcome but spam epidemic – take your pick: Viagra, colon cleansing, dodgy loans, escort girls, garden fences, wrestling, weight loss – means a short delay, for moderation, for anyone posting here for the first time.

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