Wrinkly Pete: the resurrection of Lee Cattermole

Jake: 'deserved praise for Catts'
Jake: let’s hear some praise for Catts

Monsieur Salut writes: I like Wrinkly Peter Lynn‘s contributions. So do many others. He is, as he puts it himself, ‘old school’ but that is right only in the positive sense that he has good, strong values when it comes to football (and, doubtless, life). Here is a timely reappraisal of Lee Cattermole, who seems to have devoted a lot of effort into showing he is actually a very good footballer…

I feel I should start with an apology or two.

Firstly, for implying that Lee’s career was dead; secondly for being someone who had given up hope of him ever fulfilling his undoubted potential.

So, that’s done and I can turn to marvelling at what I see as a remarkable transformation in his attitude on the pitch and recent performances.

Two of the games which I attended last season would illustrate the change.

The first was the Hull away league game on Saturday, November 2. This game I have commented on before, for the wonderful support shown by our fans which helped to almost get something from a game lost by the combined efforts of Carlos Cuellar (own goal) and Lee Cattermole and Dosser* Dossena’s red cards.

My recollection of the detail of Lee’s dismissal illustrates why I had finally given up on him. I hope I have recalled the event accurately although there have been numerous other similar instances which added to the weight of evidence against him, in my mind.

He was shown red for a reckless tackle, having just lost possession in the middle of the pitch in added time at the end of the first half. The first part of this process will, I am sure, ring bells with others. In fact, having played the game myself, albeit at a lowly amateur level, I can empathise. You have the ball and you then lose it, carelessly. You immediately want to win it back, to correct your mistake and negate your embarrassment.

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In this instance, however, other factors have to be considered. It was in the middle of the pitch, there was no immediate threat to our goal and it was in added time at the end of normal play. Finally, he is a professional and an ex-captain and had been in identical situations before and witnessed the negative outcome of his actions.

I realise, of course, that these things happen in a split second, as in other sports, and that the difference between a brilliant tackle and an apparent clumsy one is miniscule. The theme running through Lee’s transgressions, however, is that of “the same old tune”, with a momentary red mist descending over his eyes which blinds him to all other factors such as his position on the pitch and the state of play of the game.

If you then add in the element of bias his past record may induce in the referee and his apparent inability to change and you can see why I and others had given up hope.

So, for me, as I walked away from the stadium after the game, it was the end of my tolerance of Lee Cattermole’s mistakes. I even went so far as to say to my travelling companions that I hoped I would never see him play for Sunderland again.

I remember also wondering what would be going through Gus Poyet’s mind, not only over Lee Cattermole but, as his three games in charge to that point had produced: a “no show” by pretty much the whole team in the second half away to Swansea leading to a 4-0 thrashing, from 0-0 at half time, a “form goes out of the window derby clash” giving us a flattering 2-1 victory over Newcastle and the “shooting oneself in the foot” defeat to Hull. “What have I let myself in for?” sprang to mind.

Whatever he was thinking, surely the signing of Liam Bridcutt in January spoke volumes to me and countless others with regards Lee Cattermole’s future at Sunderland. Indeed, I cannot have been alone in thinking that if the rumours of Stoke taking him in that transfer window came true it would be no great loss.

Jake: 'more lovers than haters just now'
Jake: ‘more lovers than haters just now’

What has happened since is truly remarkable and probably says as much about Gus Poyet’s man management skills as it does Lee’s determination to fulfill his potential. Where Bruce, O’Neill, Ball and Di Canio failed, Gus has triumphed to the extent where his hand-picked chosen replacement can only watch from the bench.

I said earlier in this article that I would illustrate the change in him by reference to two games last season but I no longer feel that is fair to Lee as I have made reference to “numerous other similar instances” in criticising him and the fact that recently he has been man of the match in a number of games.

It is perhaps better to note that my attitude has gone from wanting to never see him pull on a Sunderland shirt again to now hoping that he plays every game.

His awareness, positioning, calmness, support of others, courage, eye for a pass – long or short – and speed of forward movement are all top class. If we now add in the goals he has started to score (perhaps aided by greater confidence?) we can see what got him England recognition earlier in his career.

As far as his Sunderland career is concerned, last season’s fans song could have no better subject … “Things can only get better”


* Dosser = Bristolian slang for a lazy person.

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