A man who divided opinion throughout his playing days, Lee Cattermole, has brought his 15-year playing career to an end at the age of just 32.
He may have started it on Teesside and finished it in Europe, but two thirds of these years were spent on Wearside. One of the few players to represent Sunderland in the top three divisions, Cattermole was a good servant to the club, despite what some fans may say.
Lee came to Sunderland from Wigan Athletic in 2009 as part of Steve Bruce’s rebuild on Wearside. He came with a reputation of a tough tackling midfielder who would add bite to a side which had long lacked toughness. He was a regular in the side and, along with Albanian Lorik Cana, Sunderland had one of the hardest midfield pairings.
He will be looked back on as a player who was too aggressive for his own good. This is the case, but the view that Cattermole is dirty is an absolute myth. He had his fair share of red and yellow cards, but he was never overtly aggressive.
Cattermole, admittedly, was always on a good wage at Sunderland. It is the main reason why he left Sunderland. Yet despite this, he always put a shift in.
Other players have earned the same or more than Cattermole and have looked half arsed on the pitch - and with this in mind, whatever your thoughts on Catts are, you can at least give him credit for his work rate.
He was once labelled as part of the ‘rotten core’ of Sunderland, sucking money and morale out of the squad. This accusation was always baffling to me, especially considering some of the total dross who have represented the club during Cattermole’s time at the club. Both he and John O’Shea were criticised heavily, with other players more deserving of some stick escaping the abuse which they deserved far more.
How can anyone forget his challenge on everyone’s least favourite ginger bloke Jack Colback? Leaving the guy in a heap in the middle of the Stadium of Light was almost as sweet as Jermaine Defoe’s volley against the old enemy in the previous season... almost.
He hasn’t always been a favourite with Sunderland managers, with some bosses opting to move Cattermole to the fringes of his squad. Other players would have moved on in this position, but he stuck it out.
Lee Cattermole is a player who won’t be remembered for quick feet or a keen eye for goal, despite scoring a couple of neat finishes in his final season on Wearside. However, his continued loyalty to Sunderland for almost ten years will make him a fan favourite for years to come. He didn’t tick all the boxes, but he did give Sunderland fans something which we often demand of a player: passion.
He will always be subject to criticism from those on the ‘rotten core’ bandwagon and the fans who criticised how much he earned, but the fact of the matter is far worse players have come and gone in the last ten years, have earned more and have put in a fraction of the effort which Cattermole put in whilst wearing a Sunderland shirt.