Sunderland midfielder relishing new challenge of promotion bid

Lee Cattermole
Lee Cattermole

Restoring that winning feeling at Sunderland is Simon Grayson’s number one priority this season.

For too long now, that feeling has escaped the Black Cats on a regular basis following years of battles against relegation from the Premier League.

Last season Sunderland eventually succumbed to the drop, with Championship football on the cards this season for the first time in a decade.

Under David Moyes Sunderland won just six league games out of 38, a dismal record that led to them ending the season a whopping 16 points from safety.

It wasn’t much better in 2015-16 with just nine league wins though it was enough for Sam Allardyce to steer the club to safety against the odds.

In 2014-15 Sunderland recorded just seven wins – and a whopping 17 draws – while you have to go back to 2013-14 for the last time Sunderland scraped into double figures when it comes to league wins, with 10 that season.

There has been a trend for too long now, but Grayson’s era offers a fresh opportunity to get back to winning ways, especially at the Stadium of Light.

The new season is just around the corner with Derby County the visitors a week on Friday ahead of a gruelling 46-game campaign.

Ahead of tonight’s penultimate friendly against Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park (KO 7.30pm), midfield general Lee Cattermole has given an insight into the winning mentality Grayson is looking to stamp into his players.

“We are getting closer now, we have got two games to go, but we are talking about winning,” said Cattermole.

“We are creating that winning mentality. I’ve been chatting to a few of the boys and as group I don’t think we are used to winning games regularly.

“We need to create that environment where we are demanding those results.

“It is not always going to be pretty, it is not always going to look good but the manager has been stressing to us that, that’s not always what you need to get out of this division.

“We are learning all the time and if you look at the performance and the attitude of the lads [at Bradford City] they showed a lot of commitment.

“It is a new challenge, there have been a lot of changes at the club and everyone is approaching it in the right manner. We are excited and we are looking forward to it,” he added.

Cattermole has been in good form this pre-season, including the 3-2 win over Bradford City at Valley Parade.

The midfielder, who joined Sunderland in 2009, has praised Grayson’s methods and says the players are reacting to his demands.

“We have got a mixed group of English, foreign, old and young so it is great and everyone is approaching each day with a great attitude and everyone is taking on board what the manager’s methods,” added Cattermole.

“It is just about making sure in your head you are ready for it because you don’t want to get caught off guard.

“If you look at the last two performances you can see that the lads are focused and really driven to go and win games.”

Cattermole only returned for David Moyes with six games to go last season after injury trouble, but he is now fit and raring to go, benefitting from a full and intense pre-season programme.

Cattermole had undergone hip surgery last September, and revealed that while he had been plagued by the problem for years, he knew this time it was serious and had become ‘too much’.

Now pain-free the 29-year-old is looking forward to a ‘new challenge’ of helping Sunderland gain promotion.

Sunderland travel to Scunthorpe this evening before the showpiece friendly against Celtic on Saturday.