It's time once again to crown another Player Of The Month award at Roker Report, and yet again it's been another tremendous month under Martin O'Neill, with scores up across the board on most players.
O'Neill seems to have found a core of players now, and especially with many of the fringe youngsters leaving on loan, the starting line-ups and generally the matchday squad seem to be taking a very familiar look each and every week, which is of course a good thing.
However, we've been scoring the players each and every week with initial post match ratings, and based on those we've averaged them out over how many games that player played in the month to find out who should be crowned our player of the month.
Now let me introduce you to our latest winner, for the time period of December 28th to January 30th, Lee Cattermole...
Lee Cattermole it is, and in my opinion quite rightly so after an unbelievable rejuvenation under Martin O'Neill. It's worth pointing out that the last time we did this, Cattermole's stock was on the rise, and it's risen even further as the games have gone on. Perhaps no finer performance was seen by a Sunderland player this month than Catts' own against Manchester City at home.
Running him exceedingly close however was Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean. Again, both have had fantastic months, and pretty much every time we've looked good going forward it's because of one or both of them. If we can just find a striker to start burying chances, they could be one of the most feared attacking threesomes in the Premier League.
One which caught me perhaps by surprise however was Craig Gardner. A lot of what went into his high score came early in the month when he was filling in as an emergency right-back before tailing off slightly. One wonders if he'd be better suited to that position on a more permanent basis.
Perhaps that's a story for another day though. Until then, here's what the rest of the Roker Report team made of Cattermole's contribution this month...
Michael Graham: I am thoroughly delighted that we are getting the opportunity to formally acknowledge Lee Cattermole's contribution to the excellent form of late. I mentioned back in the summer that I believed he was a far better player than many were willing to acknowledge and had the potential to really become a crucial part of the team (click here to read that), but I didn't expect him to prove it quite so emphatically or quickly. In addition to becoming the player we always wanted, he has also shown that he can be the captain we always wanted too. More of the same in the coming months and years please, Skipper.
Dan Williams: Of all the success that we've had since Martin O'Neill, perhaps his greatest achievement so far is the rejuvenation of Lee Cattermole. I actually speculated that his time at the club might be limited when O'Neill came in, but his return to form has been nothing short of fascinating. Rather than being his usual hot-headed self, Cattermole has looked calm and assured, as well as doing the simple things well, and his game has seen the benefits of it all. Fingers crossed that this new-look Cattermole is the one that we see in the future, as he is finally fulfilling the potential that we all know he has. However, there is also a notable mention for James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon, who have both being excellent in the last month.
David Boyle: Cattermole is a worthy, worthy winner of this months POTM award and his transformation under O'Neill has been staggering. At times it has appeared as if he is a completely different player when compared with the Cattermole of old. It would be fair to say that our captain has had a rough time of late and has earned himself an unwanted reputation with the officials, media and opposition fans. Some ill advised off the field antics did him no favours either. However the renaissance since Martin's arrival has been a joy to behold. All of the action, determination and drive you could ask from your ball winning midfielder but without that element of concern that followed the Teesider around like a lost puppy. Basically we no longer have a sweepstake on when the tough tackler will pick up his first yellow. Cattermole's influence on the side is a key part of O'Neill's system and was noticeably missin during the stuttering performance in the cup. Keep it up Lee.
Chris Weatherspoon: Since Lee Cattermole won, can we present this month's award in yellow or red, just so he has a sense of familiarity with it? Only joking, Lee (I know he's not reading anyway, leave me alone). All terrible jokes aside, captain Cattermole is a well deserving, if altogether surprising winner of this month's accolade. I say surprising because, two short months ago, many of us would have doubted whether the tenacious midfielder would still reside on Wearside. Yet, such has been the revolutionary arrival of Martin O'Neill, Cattermole has been revitalised. Against City, he showed not just his oft-hidden Premier League quality, but also an aptitude for learning. In the very first minute, he went charging off toward the halfway line seeking to win the ball, only to find himself easily passed around before Yaya Toure bounded forward and won the visitors an early corner. The captain learned his lesson instantly, and from thereon marshalled his midfield beautifully, blocking and plugging the advancing blue hordes on numerous occasions. This form continued throughout the month, with another excellent showing against top opponents coming down at Stamford Bridge. It is a sign of his newfound importance in the side that yesterday our central midfield struggled to make any kind of influence on the game. Get well soon Lee, please?
Karl Jones: As the stats will show, one of many could have won this accolade but I think it's fitting that it has gone to Cattermole. In a month where we faced Manchester City and Chelsea - games where we could ill-afford to go hiding in - he has shown up and then some; leading the side admirably and turning in high quality midfield performances. I must admit, I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the treatment Catts gets in wider football circles - not saying he doesn't deserve criticism but those that give it are then ignorant towards how important he is when he's playing well. Against City he was a hustling, bustling tyrant that pressed what seemed like an infantry of Blue-shirted, fleet-footed midfielders and since then he's carried on to the extent that his loss was felt significantly in our midfield yesterday. The image of him in Martin O'Neill's arms after the closing down marathon he ran against City symbolises his return to prominence.
Now you've had that, why not check out the full table of everyone who pulled on a red and white shirt this month...
28/12/11 To 30/01/12
It's pleasing to see so many with "+" marks in the last column, even among the stragglers at the bottom. Even those who have suffered a decrease, there hasn't been anything too major. All we need now is for these small gains to continue, and we should finish the season very strongly indeed.