Gus Poyet has heaped praise on 'the most influential player in the north east' Lee Cattermole after the former Middlesbrough trainee picked up the North East Football Writers' Player of the Year award.
The award is fair reward for Cattermole after a superbly consistent year, and Poyet insists his growth as a footballer is no accident. He told safc.com:
Lee wants to learn, wants to see something different.
Of course, we come from two totally different countries and ways of understanding football, he but he has something we always want in terms of that desire and willingness.
We wanted Lee’s position to have a special role in the game, so he had to learn the tactical side we wanted.
He was very open-minded and got it; he is always open to listening and interchanging opinions.
I’m not afraid to say I have learned a lot from him. There have been moments where he has made a comment or asked a question and he makes you think ‘here is a point’.
When Poyet arrived at the club and it became obvious that the deep-lying midfield position would, tactically, be the pivot of his whole system, there were a few doubts that Cattermole would be able to deal with the responsibility of it, both from a discipline and quality stand-point. Indeed, he was close - very close - to a January exit to Stoke City.
However, he has dug in, improved immensely, and matured into a fine footballer in his own right. This season, no Sunderland midfielder has made more tackles than or interceptions as Cattermole, and he is passing the ball with the same accuracy as the likes of Jack Rodwell and Jordi Gomez, who we are told are some of the more comfortable in possession in the squad.
It's great to see him get some acknowledgement, and that's a view that Poyet - and probably the rest of us - also shares:
I would like to thank the people that made the decision because it would have been very easy to give it to a striker or an offensive player.
I think it is great that they say the best, most influential player in the north east this year is Catts.
I'm delighted for him because he deserves it. He does things that people sometimes don't look at and deserves plenty of credit for that.
We try to help players understand what they can do and then the player is responsible for doing that, which is a big responsibility for him.
I think the relationship I have with Catts, the honesty and understanding, has made the situation very easy.
So, basically, just to sum up: We love Catts, Poyet loves Catts, and everything's peachy - which is nice.
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