LEE Cattermole says he has learned more in months under Gus Poyet’s management at Sunderland than he has in years previously.
And speaking for the first time about the January transfer window, in which he might have left the club, the club’s ex-captain has insisted he was relieved to still be at the Stadium of Light.
“I feel as though I’m not far off producing some of my best ever football,” he said.
“And I just hope that people don’t feel all the good work I did against Southampton – and in the cup final and in the first-half against Hull – has been thrown away because of an error or two in the second-half against Hull when we were chasing it.
“I’m working as hard as I can on the training pitch, and I feel as though I’ve learned more in the last four or five months on a new approach to the game, than I’ve learned in the majority of my professional career.
“I’m enjoying it, and I’ve told the manager that.
“I think we’re playing some really good football, and I’m looking forward to it continuing.
“I’m hoping to get a chance to be involved as much as possible in games and to keep on learning.
“The most important thing is for us all to get what we want from these remaining games and keep Sunderland in the Premier League, but I’m convinced that if we do that then next season could be a really good one for us.”
That Cattermole has a Sunderland future to contemplate at all, is down to an 11th-hour decision taken by the club as the January transfer window started to snap shut and with the combative midfielder heading to the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke City had made a £5m bid for the Teessider in the wake of Gus Poyet signing potential replacement Liam Bridcutt from Brighton in a £2.5m deal days beforehand.
And hours before the deadline, it looked as though Cattermole would be joining Mark Hughes’ squad.
The move would have done wonders for Sunderland’s bank balance, but Poyet decided at the last minute that the short-term benefit of the money did not match the long-term benefit of having both Bridcutt and Cattermole battling for a place at Sunderland.
Thankfully for Poyet, and Cattermole, chairman Ellis Short backed the Uruguayan head coach’s decision.
“Obviously, there was an interest there at the time,” said Cattermole. “It had been talked about for several weeks, though I’d heard nothing.
“And then on the last day of the window news came of Stoke’s interest.
“It all felt a bit rushed to me, and I had a good chat to the manager. He told me he didn’t want me to go, and I told him I didn’t want to go.
“So then it was only going to be a case of whether those higher up wanted it to happen – it was out of our hands if the chairman decided he wanted the move to happen.
“But the chairman told me later on that he’d said to the manager “if you don’t want Lee to go, then he won’t go,”
“So that was good to hear, that the manager had the backing of the chairman to keep me at Sunderland.
“Now I just want to concentrate on a massive seven, seven and a half weeks for the club; concentrate on keeping us up so we can start afresh next season and do it right.”