Don Hutchison: undoubted Mag slayer, but questionable Cattermole logic?

Stephen Goldsmith writes, It seems we’re back to the Cattermole debate again. Well, not really. I have made my feelings and opinion known on his importance to the side so Idon’t want to cover too much old ground. It appears, like me, O’Neill is prepared to persevere with his captain despite the potential percentage of games he may miss though suspension. At least until other, more critical positions in the team are improved.

Some think he shouldn’t be awarded this luxury, however. It’s  just as a prevalent opinion amongst the Sunderland supporting community that he’s a liability and should be replaced, as it is to hear my views.

I’m fine with that.

Football always has been, and always will be, about opinions. From the boardroom, to the dugout to the terraces. The way in which everybody interprets the same thing differently is a major chunk of the concept that is the beautiful game itself. Don Hutchison has spoke out about Lee Cattermole over the weekend saying he doesn’t see a player in Lee. Fair enough. Or is it?

And as Don played the game to an exceptionally high level then his opinion outweighs mine anyway, right? Not really.

Not when any argument presented is as uneducated as this one. And by

Stephen Goldsmith is a Lee Cattermole sympathiser.
Stephen Goldsmith is a Lee Cattermole sympathiser.

educated I don’t mean the ability to display qualities in your speech or writing that is academically acclaimed or the like. Nor do I mean that it should be displaying the mind of a tactical or analytical genius. I mean educated as in informed, at least a little. When you’re in the punditry business that’s the least you expect – and this Don Hutchison dross is certainly  more Mark Lawrenson/Alan Shearer than it is Gary Neville/Stan Collymore.

It’s not the fact that Hutch doesn’t rate Catts that I have an issue with. As previously mentioned, plenty are of that opinion and are perfectly entitled to it. It’s the attempted justification of his opinion -and worse – the advice offered that I take issue with. It reeks of someone who evidently doesn’t watch Lee play in the flesh on a regular basis.

It’s that he uses the ‘modern game has moved on’ rationale and that apparently Lee is an ‘enforcer’ that is outdated. The contradictions and flaws start to poke you clean in the face from here.  Don suggests Lee “should sit in front of the centre halves”, and with that we have the first indication of a comment coming from somebody who has been mostly absent from The Stadium of Light this season. Or attending with their blinkers on. One recurrent criticism of the side this season has been how deep it sits. Cattermole is part of the remedy of that problem, rather than the cause. Sitting deep and refusing to drive forward is possibly the most detrimental thing our captain could do on his return to the side. Certainly at present with N’Diaye as raw as he is and with exceptional game plans against specific teams excluded.

And I’m perfectly sure that Lee is more than capable of winning the ball deep and moving it on instantly. If he was doing otherwise against the manager’s instructions he would be subsequently dropped, surely?

I see that basic and uninformed suggestion to be created by sheer ignorance. For all Lee may be a primarily ‘defensive’ midfielder, his drive on the ball gives the whole side shape and presses them higher up the pitch. How we have missed that in his absence.

It’s painfully evident that we have had Larsson, Colback, Gardner and Vaughan all sit deep and pull our offensive players too far back already this season – Catts and N’Diaye are designed to be the presence that pulls the side forward.

If I were Lee, from here “I would make it my mission to feed Sessegnon, McClean, Fletcher and Graham”. Oh, hold on, Don said that as well! But I thought he was just to sit in front of the back four? That would suggest that playing that deep and feed these attacking players would constitute the long ball or for them to drop deeper themselves. We need either scenario like a hole in the head. Protect the back four he does, suggesting he shouldn’t move forward and limit his game to only this is nonsense.

And what of this ‘modern game has moved on’ rationale? Don suggests we should play 442 but hasn’t the game, what’s the phrase, moved on from this? Contradictions. Now before people get their knickers in a twist, I want us to play Fletcher and Graham in the same side. There’s goals in that combination and it needs to be brought to the forefront of our game plan. I highly doubt it will be a basic 442 though, more like a 4231 and while that may seem pedantic, if you are apparently offering insight as a  pundit that is more than relevant.

And wait, there’s more!

The opinion card could have probably been used by Don up until this point. Mr Hutchison then took to Twitter, however, to elaborate more. Lucky us. Apparently Cattermole just isn’t up to the standards of Schwarz, McCann or Ball. That’s Kevin Ball, the ultimate midfield enforcer if ever there was one. The ‘enforcer’ the game has moved away from.

The irony behind using Bally as a comparison is just too laughable for words. For the record, I loved Bally. He was iconic of what it was to be associated with Sunderland at the time. 100% commitment when the chips were really down. I would suggest it’s vastly unfair on Cattermole to imply he is below the footballing ability of Kevin Ball, though. One thing this current Premier League mediocrity safeguards for the payers is that my generation can barely compare them unfavourably to the players of when we were growing up. Because during the vast part of Kevin’s Sunderland career the chips really were down. And as our former captain played the majority of his career outside the top flight, the current one has never played outside it and doesn’t look to be doing so in any hurry.

Comparing Bally and Catts isn’t the path I want to go down anyway. He made me do it, I swear.

For the record, I also like Don Hutchison. He was nothing short of magnificent in his season here and I’m glad he enjoys speaking about Sunderland these days after telling Talk Sport he regretted the badge kissing antics at Newcastle.

Read Don Hutchinson’s account here:

5 thoughts on “Don Hutchison: undoubted Mag slayer, but questionable Cattermole logic?”

  1. Hutchinson is, in my opinion, correct in the main thrust of his argument. Cattermole simply does not possess the ability to be effective as an attacking midfielder. He neither scores goals or creates them, so there is little point in his occasional ineffective forays upfield.

    His value to the team is that he does break up play, and I think he could usefully operate in front of the centre halves, not as an ” enforcer ” [ Hutchinson is right, that concept is outdated in modern football ] but as a conduit to the creative players in the team. This type of player has been used by most of the great sides over the years – the best example probably being Nobby Stiles – no great footballer, but an essential component for his team and his country.

    Cattermole needs to start thinking this way if he is to have any viable future in top level football. He could become a genuinely useful player by playing to his strengths. Essentially he needs to calm down, time his tackles, rather than hurling himself in and risking cards, and, critically, concentrate on short, accurate passes to better placed team mates. I recall reading that Brian Clough was fond of telling players of this type in his Derby and Forest days, ” your job is to win the ball and give it to some one who can play “

  2. Cheers. Great player was Don but that’s very disappointing from someone who is supposed to educate us on such matters.

  3. Absolutely nailed it there. Spot on.

    Cattermole is the driving force for us, sets the tempo in the games. Without him we look laboured in possession.

  4. Very good analysis.For the record I do like Catts,and I thought we missed him when he was injured.having said that Larsson grew into the role after an indifferent start and we learnt as a team to play without him.He is not indispensable by any means.

    You are quite right to point out Don’s contradictions,its maybe too easy to stereotype Catts as a player.Yes he is a tough tackler, but he can and does keep possession and play the ball out of midfield with some skill.I recall several games where he has really tried hard to lift the team when it has been playing well below par,often singlehandedly.You can see he really wants to win and losing hurts his pride…wish we had more like him to be honest.Just wish he could score more…..but even the wizard Malbranque never managed to learn that knack.

    I have heard it said you need 2 or 3 players on the pitch who carry the managers philosophy across the line….Lee is one of those if not the main one.We may grow out of him in future but he has a role to play here for now.

    Bally was a legend.He was limited as a player but you really did get 110% out of him(though I hate that phrase justified here though),he never, ever let you down.Though i don’t recall the number of red cards being the same…….I stand to be corrected.

    • In this day and age that would be VERY different! And thanks. Good summation of where we and Catermole are at this moment, Vince.

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