Almost two years ago to the day I typed a post debating whether Lee Cattermole’s time as a Sunderland mainstay was drawing to a close. The addition of Jan Kirchhoff and the impending signing of Yann M’Villa had placed the battling midfielder’s spot in the Sunderland team under question.
Furthermore, the appointment of David Moyes suggested a bright future spent away from battling relegation (lol) - would Cattermole’s battling endeavour then be needed?
Of course, fate had a rather torturous ordeal in mind for the club, and in turn Lee Cattermole remained on Wearside as an important member of the club’s first-team plans under a succession of managers.
That being said, Cattermole’s performances over the last couple of years have been erratic to say the least. A key member of a squad that suffered consecutive relegations, Lee has often been seen as symbolic of Sunderland’s failures on the pitch.
However, despite his sometimes disappointing displays with the ball at his feet, I have to say that I think the veteran midfielder deserves a chance to prove his worth and right the wrongs of the last several seasons.
Reading back over the aforementioned article from 2016, the following excerpt caught my eye and forced me to reconsider Cattermole’s current situation:
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.
Lee Cattermole has, in my opinion, never given up on this club. He has never downed tools and sulked - yet he has always tried his best. His ability might be called into question, but his competitive edge and desire to give everything he has for the club on the pitch isn’t a matter that should be up for debate.
Of course, merely trying your best isn’t enough at the top level of any professional sport, and I think criticism of Cattermole’s performances are fair from what I’ve seen - I’m sure he knows that too.
However, there are several factors to consider moving forward that condone the idea that Cattermole should be given a chance to help our beloved club recover.
Stewart Donald’s takeover of Sunderland AFC has provided a fresh canvass upon which the club’s future can be designed and hopefully realised. Jack Ross has been assigned as the chief artist, and as such his decisions should be respected.
This isn’t disaster management, this isn’t crisis prevention, this is a club with the resources and foundations to be successful once more.
As such, Jack Ross’ vision for this success is still in its infancy, and should be respected.
If Ross thinks Cattermole is needed in the starting line-up, or as a substitute from the bench, then so be it as that is the manager’s prerogative and we should trust the process.
Additionally, debate surrounding Cattermole’s immediate future at the club should also be acknowledged and analyzed. It’s clear for all to see that Lee Cattermole’s agent is relatively keen on engineering a move away from the club - should he leave, then so be it.
However, should our former captain remain at the club, then I think it would be wise for the fans to accept Cattermole as a member of the squad and treat him as they would any of Jack Ross’ new signings.
Ignore the past, focus on the future. Give him a chance to succeed.
The midfielder’s performance against Sheffield Wednesday has gone a small way to laying the foundations upon which his Sunderland future can be rebuilt, and should an olive branch find its way into the space between Cattermole and the Sunderland fanbase, then both parties would be wise to grab it.
Ultimately, the former Boro man should be solely judged on his performances on the pitch this season. Hopefully, if he stays, our once universally adored midfielder might rediscover his form and prove to be a key component of any success achieved by the club.
Many aspects of life are cyclical - they move in mysterious ways that often defy belief. A large section of Sunderland fans might believe that Lee Cattermole is past it, or that he simply has to move on - but maybe, just maybe, this prodigal son might make his way home this season.
We need to afford him that chance, and welcome him with open arms, if so.