Sunderland: Should O'Neill keep faith or get rid of Lee Cattermole?
With Lee Cattermole picking up his fifth red card in only three years with the Black Cats, questions are being asked about how much of Martin O’Neill’s patience does the snappy midfielder have left?
O’Neill conceded that he was growing weary of the Stockton-born player’s abject disciplinary record and bemoaned the loss of Cattermole for his side’s tough trip to champions Man City and the crunch derby against bitter rivals Newcastle - a game Cattermole most likely would have ended up with a card or two anyways.
Nonetheless, his absence will be noticed as his terrier-like ability to frustrate players as good as the likes of David Silva, Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure - to name a few - has been vital to Sunderland’s progress in the past few years.
Cattermole has had many midfield partners since joining in the Steve Bruce-era; including Lorik Cana, Jordan Henderson and, last season, Craig Gardner. But the back-end of last season saw the emergence of young Jack Colback, a player in the mold of Cattermole. With Sebastian Larsson now drifting into the middle with the signing of wing-wizard Adam Johnson and, with O’Neill seemingly adamant on letting James McClean play every game on the other wing, there are question marks on Cattermole’s future.
No doubt once the 24-year-old has served his suspension he will drop back into the midfield quartet with Colback most likely being the one sacrificed, but one has to wonder how long O’Neill will give him to get his act together?
There is the age-old question that if you take the bite out of a player like Cattermole will he be a worse player because of it? Well, in his case there are ways around his rash tackles and excessive card count. For one, he doesn’t need to go flying into reckless challenges, especially when the opposition player isn’t causing a threat - as was the case against MK Dons.
Secondly, Cattermole is notoriously slow, especially after he’s been beaten to the ball. As much as the Sunderland defence would rather not face an on-rushing Samir Nasri or Oscar, they have to be prepared for it. With the likes of John O’Shea and [when fit] Wes Brown in their squad they should be fully equipped to deal with world-class attackers on a weekly basis, and should not have to rely on an over-zealous midfielder risking a red card.
So, in answer to the much-asked question I’d say NO. Cattermole won’t be offloaded in the next transfer window and nor should he. On his day he’s among the league’s best midfielders and if he can replicate his performances that saw him close to an England call-up last season, there’s no reason why he can’t aid Sunderland’s quest for European football.
Cattermole’s future is in his own hands; a player who is seen as a leader in the dressing room and who has built up a good rapport with the players and fans alike may be on thin ice with O’Neill, but if the Ulsterman was smart he wouldn’t want his maverick captain to be playing against him.
Calling all Sunderland fans: Do you agree with Sarshar? Should Martin O'Neill keep faith with Lee Cattermole or, are you like the gaffer, and becoming fed-up of losing him to red cards and suspensions? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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