The Lars Word: where’s Cattermole when a stuttering season needs him?

Lars Knutsen
Lars Knutsen

With Sunderland playing as if possessed by a death wish and commentators asking what has gone wrong, some supporters are raising awkward questions of their own. What has happened to dressing room spirit? Why was there an absence of intense collective celebration when Craig Gardner equalised on Sunday? Lars Knutsen considers reasons for our current predicament and identifies lack of leadership as the central issue …


Back in mid-January
Sunderland were relatively comfortably placed in 11th spot on 28 points, after four victories in six games, coming off an important away win against Wigan and their first double of the season.

Many supporters, including myself, thought things had finally turned around, and that the team was looking upwards rather than downwards.

But a debilitating run of just three points in seven games since then has dragged us back into the mire. Aside from at QPR last week and at home to Norwich on Sunday, the team has not played too badly, and I am sure Martin O’Neill is not mentioning the R-word – I bet he is – ed – but it would be understandable if the team was showing signs of worry and concerned.

The display against Norwich was lacking in fluidity, and the players were rather nervy, in what was in reality a must-win game. The expectation is obviously that if Sunderland are at home against 10 men, the team will win. There were boos at the final whistle and that was understandable given the quality of football that was served up.

I have heard many commentators recently asking the question: “What is wrong with Sunderland?”

At least on paper this Black Cats team should be doing much better. I was optimistic at the end of the close season with signings such as Johnston, Fletcher and Cuellar. In my view we have three factors holding us back:

* the lack of a natural partnership up front

* key players showing patchy form

* a lot of injuries

Injuries always come, but our squad is on the thin side so we have been feeling it keenly. The absence of our talismanic captain, Lee Cattermole, with a serious knee injury has been particularly trying.

The lack of a natural partnership upfront has meant that we have had to rely on heavily Steven Fletcher, who has delivered the goods in front of goal when he has had the chances.

But there should have been many more goals from midfield, and it is disappointing that Larsson, last season’s joint top scorer, has netted just once with Johnson scoring only four despite starting regularly.

Brighter has been the form of Gardner but Sess has been patchy, chipping in five goals; more is expected from a man of his skill.

In 2008 following promotion we survived on 39 points, and the following year escaped the trapdoor on 36. But in 1997 The Lads went down on 40 points, and 42 points was not enough for the Hammers to avoid the drop in 2003.

We are now in a position that we need points from upcoming games against Man Utd., Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton. Unless those are secured against the odds over the coming weeks, it is going to be a very nervy end to the season, with the team looking over their shoulders at the teams below them.

Winning is a habit, and with only seven of those this season the team needs to get out of its collective funk as soon as possible. Having a leader such as Cattermole back on the pitch would be great, but wherever it comes from, we need leaders out there, and fast.

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18 thoughts on “The Lars Word: where’s Cattermole when a stuttering season needs him?”

  1. Team Catts Team Catts Team Catts.

    Seriously though, the regularity in his injuries are beginning to dilute my affection for him.

  2. I think argument is hard to challenge. There is a decent player strruggling to get out of Catts, and such a player would be an asset in a properly balanced midfield, but I doubt we will ever see it with the consistency that’s needed. Every time you think he may have turned the corner, he makes the sort of lunge that had been booked so early vs Arsenal.

  3. Lars, I respect you greatly as a fellow fan but I think Catts has let us all down. I sympathise with his injury problems but they have largely been self inflicted and he has been a liabilty rather than an asset for the vast majority of his time at SAFC. Everyone to their opinion but that is fact.

  4. Tom, I think we will have to agree to differ – Jake’s citation of rokerreport.com seems to agree with my view –

    “Sunderland received a blow to their survival chances today after Martin O’Neill revealed skipper Lee Cattermole is unlikely to feature again this season.

    The Northern Irishman told the Sunderland Echo earlier:
    We hope for the best but, to me, if he (Cattermole) comes back this season, then that would be a bonus – and an unexpected bonus. We may have to cope without him and even if he does successfully come back from the injury, he will still be nowhere near match fit.

    We have had to do without him pretty much all season. He has definitely been a loss to us, no question about that. We have missed that drive, the things that he would give us, but we have had to make do without it.

    The news is not entirely unexpected, as Cattermole has suffered with severe injury problems all season, but it remains a big blow to a team that has lacked any fight or leadership over the past few weeks.”

  5. Lars, man, get a grip! It is more or less summed up when you start a sentence with “When he is on the field…”. He isn’t on it very much, and that’s rather a valid point in the whole argument. He’s on the golf course at Close House in the Tyne Valley a lot more.
    What is his ratio of goal-line clearances, by the way? That’s scraping the barrel in his defence on your part.
    Lars, read this slowly..Four seasons, no goals, hideous disciplinary and injury record [partially related] = get rid.

  6. I must admit that I have a different take on Lee Cattermole. He does have discipline problems, but he gives everything for the team, and takes no prisoners. There is a reason why he was selected as captain by Steve Bruce and retained in this position by Martin O’Neill.

    He is a “holding” or defensive midfielder and protects the back four. When he is on the field Sunderland play more as a team, and rather like a modern day Vinnie Jones he drives his team forward. His ratio of goal line clearances is amazing. I wish he had been in the team on Saturday, and if he can recover in time, it would be great to see his influence on the pitch in the battle to get away from the bottom tier of the Premiership table.

  7. We may have missed him a little at times, well the one that played a more disciplined game at times under O’Neill, not the old one that seemed to re-appear against Arsenal, but….that probably says more about the rest of our team.

    Also, I bring bad news. I just did the predictor, and, we’re screwed.

  8. Yep, a fit Cattermole is the answer to all our problems. His plodding around, five yards in front of Titus Bramble will turn our season around instantly.

  9. I have said for months now that Meyler plays the “Cattermole” role much better than Cattermole – so, obviously he was sold.

  10. Seems Catts has been on and put some ‘thumbs downs’ on as there are no pro-Lee comments :o)

    Alreet Lee?

  11. Tom Lynn is spot on. I’ve said it before on here but Cattermole simply does not deserve adjectives like “talismanic”. Apart from being a liability, he’s simply not very good. We are currently lacking in any kind of mobility in midfield. Nobody gets forward; nobody does anything skilful to create chances; nobody can shoot to save their lives. Cattermole would not change any of this, because he’s useless at all three. All he provides is this oft-quoted “bite” in midfield – except that bite is not enough, and his kind of bite just gets correctly punished. And I really do wonder what kind of “leadership” people think he provides, when he just seems like a complete arsehole?

  12. Dear Lars,
    After the games v Man U, Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton there could well be no team below us to look over our shoulders for. For us elderly connoisseurs of relegation, this season has had that certain odour about it for a long time now. Even though 36 points would probably be enough, it seems at the moment that 32 will be beyond us. And with the current group of players in their present form, Div 1 looks a likely destination. At least Cattermole would be at home there.

  13. I’m afraid he is much more of a libility than an asset. His return against Arsenal in February ,rash challenge and subsequent yellow card kind of summed him up.

    What goes through his head when crashing in to challenges after only a few minutes into games I have no idea. It is not as if it is something that happens once in a blue moon , there is rarely a game he starts where he doesn’t receive a yellow or red card.

    How he has kept the captaincy is another mystery. His actions whilst wearing the captains armband at times beggars belief and he borders on an embarassment. JOS is a far more dignified choice.

    I certainly wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep if Cattermole was shipped out during this summer’s cull.

    • I think that the first [ of many ] mistakes that O’Neill made was to endorse Cattermole’s captaincy. He does not, in my opinion, demonstrate the type of leadership that a PL club should demand either on the pitch or off it. Apart from which he is not a very good player. The key requirements of a central midfield player are the ability to win the ball, and to pass it accurately. He can half do the first, because too often his tackles are poor and result in free kicks. His passing is abysmal. When you add desirable qualities [ in a midfield player ] such as creativity, assists and goals, you realise that you are looking at a very ordinary player.

      I’m aware that very experienced former players like Bruce and O’Neill seem to think otherwise. I can only say that if they were infallible judges of football ability, SAFC would not be in the mess it is in now.

  14. Cattermole allegedly gets in several rounds of golf a week and enjoys a good social life.
    At 12 games a season average over four seasons and not a goal to his name, it is a joke that he is perceived as central to the plans of a supposedly ambitious football club.
    Much of his time on the sidelines has been as a result of his own ill-discipline via his gob or indiscrimate tackles.
    He has had some outstanding games, say an average of two a season?

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