After he was released early from his contract in the summer, Lee Cattermole departed Wearside to join up with former Sunderland loanee Jerome Sinclair in the Netherlands, now plying his trade with Eredivisie side VVV-Venlo.
Catts endured ten arduous seasons as a Black Cat, experiencing three Wembley defeats and two relegations in the process. Despite this perceived failure, it is fair to say that some fans saw the Boro academy graduate as somewhat of a cult hero - which has absolutely nothing to do with leaving Jack Colback in a heap on the hallowed Stadium of Light turf.
His departure was met with a chorus of calls for a testimonial, due to his service for the club over a decade where loyalty in football seems to be fading. But are Sunderland now better off without Lee Cattermole on their books?
The decision to move on our former captain was clearly influenced by the financial aspect of the club, and in that sense, it seemed a sensible choice.
Our running costs, to keep up with SCMP rules, needed cutting desperately to ensure the future of this great club was secure. The potential takeover by the MSD Partners may not have even got past the initial stages if our running costs were still so high, and that’s down to the current owners making us an attractive opportunity to prospective buyers.
On the pitch, his performances of last season were up and down. He managed to bag a brace to single-handedly earn the Lads three points at Wimbledon away, but it was perhaps the injuries over the years catching up with him that often left us realising just why he hadn’t been picked up by a Championship club. At his age, his own ability to positively affect games will undoubtedly decline.
One area in particular where I feel we may be missing Lee Cattermole is in the leadership department. In Grant Leadbitter we currently have a club captain who, justified by his age, simply cannot be on the pitch all that often. In his absence, various ‘senior’ members of the first team squad have taken on the armband - Jon McLaughlin, Aiden McGeady and Tom Flanagan to name just a few.
Without being disrespectful to their individual qualities, it is pretty clear that these candidates are not the type of character to drive the intensity of a game or pick those around them up when things are getting tough.
The void of leader on the pitch is yet to be filled this season, and Catts would certainly be an obvious choice to get the best out of those around him, especially when defending a lead - which we have failed to do on so many occasions already this term.
The signings of Coventry and Walsall respective captains Jordan Willis and George Dobson looked on paper to be perfect acquisitions for a team in serious need of players who could combine their leadership and ability, with their best days potentially ahead of them.
While George Dobson has so far been given games here and there, the former Sky Blue Willis has become a mainstay in the side, with hopes that Sunderland will gain promotion from the third tier at the second time of asking.
Willis captained the Lads to a solid 2-1 victory over MK Dons with a real classy display alongside new boy Joel Lynch, perhaps giving some hope that the duo will go on to be a successful pairing as the season progresses. This was one of the first occasions this season where it seemed we had a genuine leader on the pitch who also gave a solid display with and without the ball. Only time will tell if Willis can eventually fill the void left by Cattermole in that department, but the early signs certainly look positive.
Are Sunderland better off without Lee Cattermole?
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