Sunderland midfielder hails Jack Ross and summer recruitment after choosing to stay

Lee Cattermole was first on the scene at the defining moment.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 8th October 2018, 8:38 am
Updated Monday, 8th October 2018, 8:43 am
Lee Cattermole scores his second goal at AFC Wimbledon earlier this season
Lee Cattermole scores his second goal at AFC Wimbledon earlier this season

Encouragement for Jon McLaughlin after his penalty save, and for Tom Flanagan, whose tackle had definitively ended the danger.

That set the tone for the 20 minutes that followed.

Cattermole was the talismanic figure as Sunderland defended resolutely, the 30-year-old popping up everywhere and making countless vital interceptions.

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At the end his name was roared in the away end.

There were salutes from the midfielder both for those fans and his team-mates.

He may not have the armband but his influence is clear. Cattermole was delighted with the resilience, but has warned his team to be more ruthless in the coming weeks and months.

"We're making things so hard for ourselves," he said.

"Any time there's a dull moment in the game, we give a team an opportunity to get a foothold. We were so comfortable in the first half, we need to be more ruthless, get more used to winning games.

"It was the same on Tuesday, we dominated but you've got to go 2, 3-0 up. But we're learning as a group, the staff are picking out things for us and we're improving the performances. We dug in there and I don't think we were ever going to get beat. Our response to the Burton defeat, as a group, has been excellent.

"Fair play to the manager, he made that little change, brought Alim on. They were playing a lot of long balls so it made sense to do that, he was ready, as were George and Dylan. it'll take the full squad for us to succeed this season. The resilience is there for everyone to see."

Cattermole's future was the subject of intense speculation and he admits that when relegation from the Championship was confirmed, he expected to move on.

There was rumoured interest from Hull City and Stoke City also offered a late escape route as Gary Rowett looked to plot a path back to the Premier League.

In pre-season there were difficult moments and Cattermole told Jack Ross not to pick him if he felt it could adversely affect younger players on the pitch.

Now, however, he is loving life as part of what he sees as exactly the kind of squad Sunderland should always build.

He is determined to help them put the club back where it belongs.

"For me, I fought relegation from the Premier League for twelve years, going home devastated on a night because you're losing games. Digging in, it is a lot of effort.

"The difference in me because we're winning, it doesn't matter what league it is in. It's a good thing to be part of. It's nice to be part of it this but we've not done anything yet.

"We've got a lot of players in this squad who believe, they're players who want to prove themselves and we know we have to work hard to get there.

"I think the manager and his staff have created that environment for us. We've seen there's players who don't want to be part of it, I can't understand it. Why wouldn't you? The manager is putting on such good sessions, we're learning and improving every week.

"I've been through that much but as long as you go to work each day and give your all, I can look in the mirror and sleep at night. I'll try and do the talking on the pitch, and you see the response from the fans there.

"I could have left the club in different circumstances but I decided I wanted to stay, I didn't want to go out on such a bad note after nine years," he added.

"I was always determined to play well, we had a good pre-season, the staff and the players we have brought in have been different class. The lads we have brought in are what we've needed as a club. Some of the signings we made [in the past], never Sunderland players, never what the fans demand.

"Look at the end of there, three or four lads, 96th minute, ratting about people, that's what this club is about. We'll get better and keep going.

"I didn't think we'd drop out of the Premier League after all those survivals we had. It hurts you as a player when you're giving everything on the pitch and then you're seeing some of the recruitment over the years, you get some stick sometimes and you look at how many players have come here and not made any impact on the club.

"I'm proud of what I've done here, I'll keep doing what I do. The change of ownership, it feels like a new club and the fans seem happy."

There is no doubt who Cattermole sees as a key architect in Sunderland's revival this season.

His praise for Jack Ross is effusive, honest and passionate.

That the feeling is mutual is no secret.

"Last year as a club we were nowhere near where we should have been, and it was horrible. At first I felt I needed a change but the staff who came in had a very similar idea about football to me, and the longer it went on the more I wanted to stay.

"I just felt chatting to Jack that he really cared, understood my situation. I felt I could learn from him, how he wants to play, you see times in games, some of the football we play is great.

"That's even with so many new many players. I like his principles, what he wants from his team. We're all good players but you only get to see it when you put the hard yards in.

"The manager has been different class from day one, driving it, first out there to set the sessions up. He leaves no stone unturned, there's absolutely no excuses [for players] because he's so professional.

"For me, it's all about what's going forward now. If I think about the past it's just going to drag me down, I think about what I'm doing every day for the club, for Jack Ross and for the other lads."

At Valley Parade there was almost a fourth goal of the campaign for Cattermole.

He was, however, more than happy to see Josh Maja ultimately claim his ninth of the season.

"It was going wide to be fair," he admitted.

"I was going to wind him up and say that they'd given it to me! I'm buzzing for Maj though. I can't believe he's only 19, it seems like he's been around for a while now.

"He's a cracking player. Some of his mates moved on but he's hung around and he's doing great. We're going to need all the lads this season."

For Jack Ross, communication has been key and the pair are now reaping the rewards.

"He's been great for me from day one – how he's trained, how he's gone about things," Ross said.

"Always we've been very open in our communication and I understood the situation he was in and a lot about the wrong perception of him so he and I built a relationship based on how we found each other and he's been really good for me off the pitch and on the pitch and he's enjoying his football – you can see it from his performances, how he trains every day and how he speaks to me and the staff. I'm pleased for him."

“I'm pleased he's enjoying the adulation he's getting from supporters because he's had difficult times and he loves playing football, loves the club and wants to take the club back up the levels. I think that was epitomized in the last 20 minutes on Saturday. His desire to make sure he won that game was outstanding."