Lamine Kone’s future has been the subject of fierce speculation all summer – but Lee Cattermole says his attitude, performances and commitment can’t be faulted.
Kone was one of several Sunderland players expected to depart the Stadium of Light in the wake of relegation from the Premier League.
Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini, Jordan Pickford, Vito Mannone and Jeremain Lens are among those to have left, but centre-back Kone is still on Wearside with less than two weeks of the transfer window to go.
West Bromwich Albion and Burnley are among the clubs understood to have an interest in Kone but as yet there have been no bids for his services.
Kone was excellent at the heart of Sunderland’s defence in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, helping quell the late surge from the hosts alongside the equally impressive Tyias Browning.
The transfer talk is likely to only intensify as the window draws to a close but skipper Cattermole has praised Kone’s attitude.
“He’s been spot on and I think everyone’s attitude since the first day we came back for pre-season has been,” said Cattermole.
“That’s what we’ve drilled into everybody – this is how it’s got to be to get out of the division.
“If you’re not willing to show the right attitude, the door’s there but everyone’s doing the best they can and hopefully we’ll get the rewards.
“Lamine’s been different class.”
Unbeaten Sunderland have enjoyed a strong start to life in the Championship with the Black Cats sixth with five points from their opening three games.
Cattermole says the players are enjoying the current campaign and much of that comes from playing under manager Simon Grayson.
Ahead of Saturday’s home teatime clash against Leeds United, Cattermole said: “Definitely [we are enjoying it].
“It’s totally different, a different approach, being in the game and knowing you can win every game.
“In the Premier League there’s a massive difference in class when you face the top five or six teams away from home.
“I can sense a different mood amongst the fans and I’m sure numbers will get bigger and bigger at the Stadium of Light with the performances we’re beginning to show, so it’s up to us to keep encouraging the fans.
“There’s no mass difference in quality between the teams and you get honest teams who work really hard and you’ve got to keep matching them.
“I don’t think your quality is going to allow you to dominate teams, there are always going to be real 50-50 games so you’ve got to be level-headed.
“The problems start when you think you’re a bit too good for the division.
“If you see where we were last season, we’ve approached the games in the right manner, not walked around with a swagger.
“We probably deserve to be here so it’s up to us to get ourselves out of it.
“It’s all you need and all you want, that honesty in the group.
“That starts first and foremost with the manager, his energy and his belief in that approach.
“Everyone’s got the quality to win games so day in, day out we’ve got to keep them standards.”
The treadmill of fixtures continues with the visit of Leeds United to the Stadium of Light on Saturday (KO 5.30pm), with the players keeping their feet firmly on the ground despite the strong start.
Cattermole, though, is more than happy for the Sunderland fans to enjoy the current run of form.
“As a group we’ve got to make sure we don’t get carried away but I’m all for the fans getting excited and enjoying themselves,” added 29-year-old Cattermole.
“If you look at the amount of games we’ve won in the last five or six years it’s not many.
“Let them get excited so long as we as a group respect every team we play and be aware of their strengths.
“It’s been a while since we’ve played at home and Leeds are a massive club, along with ourselves and the likes of Sheffield Wednesday.
“They are games we can look forward to and I’m sure they’ll bring good support.
“Our fans will match them so it’s up to us to put in a good performance on the pitch.
“It’s going to be difficult but we can’t take anyone lightly and we’ve not done that.
“We’ve got to be level-headed and realise this is going to be a tough division.”
Cattermole has started every league game this campaign after overcoming a troublesome hip injury and he believes there is much more to come from Sunderland.
“We’re going to get better because there are six lads who have just come to the club and gone straight into the starting XI so it shows the work we’ve done in pre-season to get them on the pitch.
“It’s all been positive so far and we need to keep believing in what we’re doing and buying into the gaffer’s thoughts.”