Lee Barry Cattermole - has a Sunderland player ever had such a transition from cult hero to villain in such a short space of time? Probably not.
Removed from the squad entirely by Jack Ross for last week’s last gasp win over Charlton Athletic, the former captain and vice-captain reappeared from the bench in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with promotion hopefuls Luton Town, though the travelling faithful weren’t exactly enamoured by his introduction.
This begs the question - just how far has Lee Cattermole’s stock fallen, and why?
The midfielder has had a turbulent last year-and-a-half on Wearside that has seen the Stadium of Light crowd go from almost worshipping the Stockton born 30-year-old to turning on him after a series of woeful displays in last season’s Championship campaign - not to mention his alleged pre-season outburst at Hartlepool.
Our love affair with a man who was once tipped for an England cap is as dead as a door nail - the man we all used to love has fallen so far out of favour fans are clamouring for any club to take him off our hands.
These days he’s slow on the ball, his tackling is weak and mistimed; he’s so far removed from the Lee Cattermole we loved only a few years ago.
But apart from the obvious playing limitations - why else has his stock fallen so quickly?
Is the unwavering criticism fair? Yes. 100%. He’s been poor for well over a year. But is he deserving of the groans hes greeted with? In all honesty - probably not. No player is, realistically.
Every fan has a player they just can’t get away with, and unfortunately for Cattermole, the majority of Wearside see him as the weak link in a fresh, young and new look Sunderland.
Sunderland has been a rosy place over the last few months. With a new owner, green shoots of hope have popped up all over the the hallowed Stadium of Light turf and have given belief back to a demoralised, depressed and apathetic crowd. Steward Donald and Charlie Methven have implemented a plan to reignite this fabulous football club and with a big clearing of the cancer that surrounded us for so long, we’ve backed them.
The removal of the boardroom, the coaching staff and ultimately the playing staff we had come to loathe gives everyone the clean slate we’ve wanted for seasons. A new board, a new manager and a whole new bunch of young, hungry players glad to be here means we’ve seen a fresh start and a light at the end of the tunnel - unfortunately for Cattermole the sight of his slow, ponderous figure in the engine room is a constant reminder of the dour, dark and hurtful days of the all too recent past.
Lee Cattermole resembles the old regime. The fire fighting last minute survivals and inevitable relegations, the poor home form, the 8-0 defeats away to Southampton - the Ellis Short years, if you will. While it might not be fair to put all the blame for those years on him, there’s no denying seeing him on the pitch reminds you of the desperation and misery we all felt in those seasons. This is why his appearance in the squad simply has to be eradicated.
The need for change had been clear for a long, long period and when it came this year, it brought about quite the euphoric response. Combining the departure of the absent Ellis Short with the arrival of fan-friendly, positive thinking Stewart Donald has started to change the whole perception of our venture into League One. With the likes of Lamine Kone, Jack Rodwell and Jason Steele alongside a host of others departing the club, it felt like a huge weight (and not just financially) had been taken off - no longer would we need watch these losers leech off our beloved club.
And whilst you may say it’s unfair to aim all the criticism for the club’s failures as a whole on one man, that would be to simply miss the point being made here. If Sunderland AFC are to stop being the joke of the English game, if we are to change the mindset of losing then it’s clear that we can no longer persist with Lee Cattermole.
His image now epitomises the years of failure and disappointment and if we are to go into the new era as clean from those behaviours as possible, he simply cannot be allowed to be anywhere near the first team.
Hopefully Bordeaux are indeed keen on taking him - for everyone’s sake.