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The Cattermole Conundrum

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Despite his unwavering commitment and battling enthusiasm, has Lee Cattermole's time as a first choice midfielder come to an end? Tom Atkinson looks at what the future holds for Sunderland's current longest serving player.

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Over the course of the last few days - and as Sunderland’s transfer slumber appears to have come to an end - an interesting question has arisen regarding the future of Lee Cattermole. With Yann M’Vila widely expected to sign in the coming days, minds have now started to question whether or not Cattermole will be 'guaranteed' a starting berth in David Moyes’ midfield.

Assuming Moyes opts for two holding players in the middle of the park, as he has done so in the past, then does Cattermole have a chance of ousting M’Vila or Jan Kirchhoff? Is Lee Cattermole good enough as an all round footballer to be picked ahead of Kirchhoff or M’Vila? Does he have the skill or composure of either of the two aforementioned players? Certainly not, and if all goes to plan and we hit the ground running with Kirchhoff and M’Vila in the middle, then Lee just might not be needed.

Cattermole has 181 appearances to his name in a red and white shirt, playing under no less than nine managers including caretakers. It’s obvious that Lee cares about the club - his passion and energy are laid out for all to witness every time he steps foot on a pitch - however, aside from Steve Bruce’s tenth place miracle, Lee has never been a part of an impressive, or indeed comfortable Sunderland squad. His heart and fight are what have endeared him to the Sunderland faithful; his willingness to roll up his sleeves and pull up his shorts just that little bit higher in order to help drag the team to safety.

But with the appointment of Moyes bringing a hope to fans that perhaps this is the year we won’t be inching over the finish line, one has to wonder as to whether Lee’s time as a mainstay of the side is coming to an end.

I’ve loved the way in which Lee has given his all for the club year after year, even when frozen out under several managers. This season, he will undoubtedly see minutes with Kirchhoff’s fitness issues; but as much as I’ve loved his passion over the last six or seven years, I don’t think he will be the mainstay in the middle of the park for much longer unless we find ourselves in a familiar position at the back of the pack.

M’Vila and Kirchhoff just offer so much more as players; they can tackle, pass and offer creativity as opposed to Lee’s mettle and aggression. Cattermole hasn’t provided an assist in over five years at the club, whereas M’Vila provided four last season alone. We are at the stage now where we need more from our central midfielders and unfortunately as of right now, Lee doesn’t offer us anything other than battling determination.

Don't get me wrong, at times this season his resolute determination will be necessary, but as much as I respect Lee Cattermole and everything he’s done for our club, I think his time might well be up as a first choice central midfielder. We are a club hoping to start an upward trend, and something inside of me knows that Cattermole just might not be versatile enough to add to our evolution.