Dan Williams: Cattermole Should NOT Remain Captain
I might have put myself forward on something of a hiding to nothing by deciding to argue against Lee Cattemole keeping the Sunderland captaincy, after all, Martin O'Neill won't hear of it, but that's what this feature is all about. Opinions and arguments, so let's get straight into some. A club's captain needs to be a player that everyone in the squad can look up to, both on and off of the pitch, and although it pains me to say it, that just hasn't been Lee Cattermole in his time at
Sunderland AFC. He's been sent off five times since his arrival - and we'll get to how and why that is later - while also hitting the pages of the Sunderland Echo for all the wrong reasons on a night out with Nicklas Bendtner.
First and foremost though, he needs to set an example on the field. A team's captain needs lead by example, and hopefully be involved in each and every game of the season. For Catts, this just isn't an option. I don't want to dwell on his injury problems, as he's done well to overcome them recently and make himself essential to O'Neill, but he has a history of not being fit, and there is only so much leadership that a player can offer when he's sitting on the sidelines.
The other issue of course is his discipline problems. O'Neill himself lamented Cattermole's rash challenge against MK Dons in the Capital Cup, and he's a lucky boy that the team had enough to come through the tie unscathed after having played over an hour with 10 men on the park. I realise that it was the first time that he's received a straight red card for a tackle, but in some ways that emphisises how much of a liability he can be at times. The derby last season is a case in point. Booked in the first minute he performed superbly for the next 90-something, but somewhere in his brain he didn't think to just leave the field at the end of the game, and his rant at the referee earned him a red card, robbing us of his talents in the next match.
I'm not saying that players shouldn't look to him for inspiration during a game. He will always be there for that, and he is a born leader, but surely taking the armband away from him, reassuring him that he can go out and play his own game, and not have to overly worry about 'showing his teammates how it's done' might improve his game? He then wouldn't have to try and prove himself by throwing himself into an early tackle, or being the first to bark at the referee following a debatable decision.
So who should take the armband if we take it away from Cattermole? John O'Shea is the name that immediately springs to mind, but the former Manchester United man is another that isn't exactly a stranger when it comes to the physio's table. The same applies to Wes Brown, and I realise that you are now thinking that there aren't many more candidates out there on the park. But hear me out. Here's my idea.
Make Jack Colback captain. We all know that O'Neill is a big fan of him, and the young lad could thrive - even more than he has already in his time in the team - with the pride and responsibility that comes from captaining your home-town club. The lad from Killingworth, in my eyes, could well be a master stroke in terms of captaincy.
People said that when Steven Gerrard was made captain of Liverpool at only 23, it was too soon for him. He wasn't vocal enough on the pitch, he didn't control things like a captain should, and he wasn't ready. Look what happened there. Colback will be 22 this month, and this could be the perfect time to thrust him into the limelight. He would still have Cattermole alongside him, snarling and growling at the opposition, but would be able to assert his own influence over his teammates, and his own game.
For another example, Norwich midfielder Jacob Butterfield used to be in and out of the team at Barnsley, never quite nailing down his place in the starting line-up. However, when Keith Hill made him captain, despite claims that he wasn't vocal enough, and that there were others in the squad who 'deserved it more', he went on to play the best football of his life, and inspired Barnsley to go on their best run in years.
I'm not for one minute saying that Lee Cattermole shouldn't be in the Sunderland starting line-up, I agree with all comments coming out of Roker Report that we are far better with him in the side than without, all I'm saying is relieve him of the pressure that being captain entails, and entrust it to a young man who could use the lime light to propel himself into becoming the star that we all know he can be.
Simon Walsh: Cattermole Should Remain Captain
I can fully see the arguments against why Cattermole should lose the position, but they don't really stand up to much do they when you give it some further thinking?
Looking around the squad there's plenty of experience, but not many who require all the necessary components to be a truly great captain - desire, leadership and of course the ability to raise the game of those around him. Consider these, and you'll find Cattermole to be the perfect choice.
Who else would you have? John O'Shea? Well he's already vice-captain and can pass on plenty of knowledge and organization without having a band on his arm. Then who? There's really nobody. Phil Bardsley can't stay fit. Ditto Carlos Cuellar, while Jack Colback and all the rest just too weak-willed or mild-mannered.
Cattermole's desire, whether it get's him into bother or not, cannot be questioned. Even looking at his most recent sending off against MK Dons. Was it a bit stupid? Yeah a little, but it wasn't malicious in the slightest, more just further proof his unrelenting desire to win every ball and give his team the best chance of winning. A second earlier he makes that challenge and the crowd go wild. It's just one of them which went wrong on this occasion.
The 'Boro born midfielder's is an absolutely key component to the side. Games such as Manchester City last year, the Newcastle away game last season where for 94 minutes he was magnificent, Arsenal away this season - we could go on.
Those game show just what a player we have on our hands, and a few more of those and he could well be one of the best holding midfielders in the country. He's still only 24-years old, and is nowhere near his peak. If you stick by him, he'll repay you in spades.
"But he gets sent off too much!" I hear you cry. "Look at his off-the-field indiscretions too!" yells another voice from a darkened corner. Well stop the presses eh? Combative defensive midfielder in picks up a few cards shocker! Young lad with plenty of money and time on his hands gets a bit drunk and does something stupid scandal! Do me a favour and jog on.
For me Lee Cattermole is like a Kevin Ball-type. Not everyone's cup of tea, but a leader. A leader of men. That's exactly what he is, and that intangible quality which makes a great captain.