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Durham Times: Hutchison Wrong To Blast Cats Skipper

Each week we provide our views to The Durham Times newspaper. If you enjoy the local press and the good work they do then get a copy for just 50p each and every Friday. Oh, that's also why this is slightly out of date, but avoid that by buying the thing! Here's our latest...

Matthew Lewis

If there is one thing about football that draws you in and keeps it at the forefront of your attention, it is probably its massive scope for inspiring opinion. In fact, I have always tended to find it incredibly difficult to come across someone who doesn't have an opinion on our national game and is only too insistent to share it.

Some opinions you agree with, and some you don't. It's no big deal. Occasionally, though, one pops up that for one reason or another gets right under your skin, and the less-than-complimentary views on Lee Cattermole that Don Hutchison aired in the Sunday press last week was certainly one of those for me.

Obviously, Lee Cattermole is not perfect. If anyone was to tell me that the Sunderland skipper does not play enough games, for example, I'd wholeheartedly agree. If someone were to say that he occasionally requires one touch too many to get the ball under his control in tight areas, I'd find it an assertion with which it was difficult to disagree.

But good luck getting such considered and educated insight on the matter from Hutchison. Why bother, it seems, when easy condemnation based upon cheap stereotyping will suffice.

"I honestly don't see a player in Lee. The game has moved on now to have someone that just runs around picking up yellow and red cards all the time", the former Scotland international said of Cattermole, who has an utterly abhorrent tally of two Premier League yellow cards to his name in from his ten games this season.

"He should sit in front of the two centre halves", apparently, "and get his pass completion rate higher", and the fact that no Sunderland midfielder has made a greater percentage of his passes in his own half and only two players in the entire squad can boast a greater success rate should, under no circumstances, discourage us from buying into this nonsense.

When you watch Lee Cattermole every week, or as often as his struggles with injury allow, you realise that he is an easy player to love. He is committed to the cause, as brave as they come, and a pretty decent player to boot.

To Martin O'Neill, a European Cup winner, Cattermole is "a great leader" who "closes down as well as anyone I've known". To Manchester City's former Barcelona behemoth, Yaya Toure, he is worthy of acknowledgement as one of his toughest opponents.

The problem is that no matter how easy he is to love to those who know and watch him, to pundits who sit atop their ivory towers getting drunk on the sound of their own self-satisfaction, he has made himself an even easier player to vilify. I suppose you'd have to admit he has made himself an all-too-easy target for that.

But whilst the likes of Don Hutchison picks him apart from highlights packages that are unlikely to contain anything other than snippets of an occasional reckless challenge and blow it all up out of proportion, his managers, colleagues, and the vast majority of the fanbase lament his absence, hail his return, and defend him vociferously.

That, to me, carries considerably more resonance than the ill-informed ramblings of an ‘expert' who has the cheek to brand others footballing dinosaurs and then cite the antiquated 4-4-2 as the solution to all of football's woes.

I once likened Lee Cattermole to the grubby little engineer tucked away inside a glorious and glistening steam engine shovelling coal into the furnace, and it is an analogy I still stick to. You don't have to see him or notice him to appreciate his importance to the machine and he certainly doesn't need to be pretty.

If Hutchison believes he is offering insight, he is wrong. If he believes he has managed to convince many that he even watches Sunderland play often enough to form the basis of an informed opinion, I suspect he'd be in for a shock. All he has offered is the boring repetition of reputation.

That is all it ever boils down to with Cattermole, and whilst he has struggled with discipline issues before, he probably deserves more than to be continually defined by the number of cards he receives.

Is there still a place in football for Lee Cattermole? Yes, of course there is. Football needs its Lee Cattermoles. Fans need them. Players in the Don Hutchison mould who want to play with a semblance of attacking freedom and entertain need them. Perhaps he has forgotten.

In fact, as a Sunderland fan I'd like to see a lot more of him on a football pitch. Much more.

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