Cattermole's Stupidity Should Not Overshadow His Ability
We all knew Alan Pardew loved the sound of his own voice, but I didn't think it went to such lengths.
Having studied in Southampton and lived with a Charlton supporter during that time I was all-too-aware of Pardew's, let's say, tendencies before he was appointed at SJP/SDA@geordienation.com... But Pardew isn't my subject of much annoyance - not directly anyhow.
I have to thank little George Graham for this, as without his presence his daddy would have been going hell for leather in another Captain's Blog.
So instead, you've got me. And I'm aiming at those who take great pleasure in abusing Lee Cattermole.
It was inevitable, really.
Given his recent derby excursions Lee Cattermole was certain to receive a card. What followed was just as likely; the wider football community preceding his name with ‘thug' or to go as a far as an expletive. Then, the Cattermole that has been present throughout Martin O'Neill's reign as Sunderland manager returned, and for 45 minutes Sunderland overcome a difficult start at one of England's most hostile football arenas to assume the ascendancy. Yet Cattermole was barely mentioned until his dispute with referee Mike Dean after the final whistle. It was like he hadn't even played.
That irritates me beyond belief.
There is no doubting that Cattermole's Sunderland career - his entire career in fact - has been tumultuous; for every impressive run of games there is a red card just waiting to recklessly scythe down his form from behind. It has done so again, but under O'Neill, Cattermole has shown a calmer, more assured side that the much-acclaimed Jonathan Wilson noted this week. The great shame is that he has been alone in doing so. It seems that those quick to label Cattermole cannot, and in some cases will not, recognise his ability as a protective midfielder. What is worse that many would rather extend the joke than go against the grain and commend Cattermole's contribution to his side's improvement - which, up until recently - had the very same people searching for fresh superlatives.
It is impossible to defend Cattermole's actions post-match, but there has to be a balance. He committed one foul, one reckless foul admittedly, but given what proceeded his name should have been nowhere near Alan Pardew's statement which insisted that Sunderland arrived with a game plan to upset his side. There is some truth in that - Sunderland did arrive to unsettle Newcastle, and did so by outplaying them for almost the first half's entirety - but what was actually said veered drastically away from fact. Cattermole's one indiscretion paled in comparison to the tally amounted by Cheik Tiote. It was even inadequate to Craig Gardner's four, so to highlight Cattermole further suggests that his reputation precedes what he does on the pitch. There is sufficient argument that the challenge which saw Sunderland's captain booked within the first minute was not the game's most cynical of fouls - but here is where the ‘striker's challenge clause' protects Demba Ba.
Since being recalled to the Sunderland team by O'Neill - detractors will be keen to point out that Cattermole missed the game against Blackburn through suspension - the midfielder has been the combative, indefatigable middle-man that had shown glimpses of such under Steve Bruce. Over the course of this season he averages just over two fouls per game, which is rather derisory for a hacker. In addition, and displayed most since O'Neill's appointment, his temperament in midfield situations has been outstanding. Again on Sunday he led the way in interceptions for his side and averages 3.2 per game this season. Sunderland's revival has been based on counter-attacking. His ball retrieval skills are of paramount importance.
To reach a point where O'Neill called a press conference to specifically defend his team's credibility in the wake of a heated derby is, frankly, scandalous - particularly when you consider the accusations were made by a goading, fist-pumping opposing manager. O'Neill, quite rightly, referenced the incident where Cattermole was caught with a flailing arm (can you honestly say elbow in these situations?) and simply got on with his task of protecting his back four. My concern is that it has gone too far, emphasised by the silence that meets Cattermole's performances of late. Perhaps I am being too harsh, and the silence is an acknowledgement of his form. There is no doubting that Cattermole instigating a situation by where he was sent off was built on frustration before thought. It is high time those critical of Cattermole stopped emulating his biggest flaw.
Stats were provided by whoscored.com for the benefit of Alan Pardew.