Captain's Blog: Cattermole Class Silences Captaincy Debate

Julian Finney

The question of whether or not a player with as poor a disciplinary record as Lee Cattermole should be the Sunderland captain is probably never going to go away completely. That shouldn't be the case, though.

It is an argument that has lingered for months, perhaps even years, but surely there cannot be many people remaining who question whether or not Lee Cattermole should be the captain of Sunderland?

That is, in truth, a statement that I make with a degree of caution. After all, this is not the first time the debate has appeared to have been put to bed. In fact it is not even the second or third time. He will probably always be a spontaneous desperate lunge away from reopening the discussion.

He shouldn't be, however. The Lee Cattermole we are seeing today is completely unrecognizable from the one who frequently cut a frustrated figure as he struggled to come to terms with injury and a natural competitive streak that proved difficult to curb.

Back then, you were never too sure as to whether he warranted a place in the team never mind whether or not he should be leading it out and being the club's senior representative on the field of play.

Nowadays, however, his discipline is so much less of an issue it is almost irrelevant to the debate. You can remove it entirely. Nowadays, his football alone is more than sufficient to justify the armband.

Perception is an odd thing. When I was sure I was seeing Cattermole leading from the front at Craven Cottage and largely bossing the midfield, fans of other clubs were clogging up my Twitter timeline tweeting what a poor footballer he apparently is.

But I don't see anything poor in a 91% success rate on a team high amount of passes. Nor do I see anything poor in a team high number of interceptions. I certainly don't see anything poor about a long pass accuracy of 86% or producing more final third entry passes than anyone in either side's midfield or attack.

Right now, and no matter how many people want to appoint themselves judge in a trial by reputation, Lee Cattermole is what he has always threatened to become - a genuinely quality footballer.

More than that, though - he is a leader too. People can argue all they want about who they think should wear the armband and who they think the players should follow. The reality is that no one empowers a leader. They empower themselves and they inspire others to respect them.

It wouldn't matter one jot who Martin O'Neill appointed captain. You could strap some fabric round anyone's arm you wanted, but the players would still defer to Cattermole. There is nothing sinister or mutinous about that. It is simply that Cattermole is the natural leader of the group. The one they trust and choose to follow.

There was a ringing endorsement of that from Adam Johnson - someone who has grew up with Cattermole in the Middlesbrough academy.

"He was always hot-headed and got the lads going, but he has matured loads now and he's definitely worthy of the captaincy because he is a great leader," insists the winger.

The situation is perhaps best summed up by Martin O'Neill himself. When asked the question following Cattermole's red card at Milton Keynes earlier this season, the Sunderland manager responding in typically playful fashion.

"If I have [a] decision to make on the captaincy, I do have time to think about it. Ok. I have thought about it. He is still the captain."

No discussion, no question, no need to even think about it. Lee Cattermole is the Sunderland captain. Not just because a manager says so. Simply because it is what he is. With a new 4-year-contract and his best years ahead of him, that doesn't look like changing any time soon.

Suits me fine. I doubt I could think of a better man for the job, anyway.

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