An extremely competitive midfielder or a dirty little so and so, just what do you think of Lee Cattermole? Some of his tackles would make even then likes Billy Bremner wince yet no fan could ever question his desire and passion for the cause.
There are few players in the Premier League that put as much effort in as Cattermole. When playing in 2006 for his local club, Middlesbrough, he was inconsolable after a heavy defeat against Aston Villa. It was refreshing to see a game mean so much to a footballer, with some seemingly ambivalent so long as they get paid. His passion for success has stayed with him despite the fact that he no longer plays for his local team.
Cattermole is a regular in the current under-21 England side, as despite the fact that he has played in the Premier League for five seasons he is still only 21 years old. He is a favourite of Steve Bruce, following the manager from Wigan to Sunderland last summer. He provides real steel to the heart of the midfield, stifling opposition attacks and adding his energetic support to attacking moves. One definite criticism of Cattermole as a player is that he does not score enough goals, only 4 senior goals in 88 league appearances.
The main criticism of Cattermole however is that he can at times be a reckless and even nasty tackler. He flies into tackles with opposition players with no fear and as a result he is regularly in discussions with referees. This season alone he has 5 yellow cards and one red in just 14 league appearances. Only recently returning to form after injury, which had ruled him out for over 2 months, Cattermole is again on the sidelines due to his red card recently against Portsmouth. A lunging tackle on Angelos Basinas earned Cattermole a second booking in under five minutes. He may of got some of the ball but he got far more of Basinas’ shin and deserved his marching orders.
A player like Cattermole is not popular with football purists. I can imagine Arsene Wenger having nightmares of Cattermole scything through Cesc Fabregas. He is however a talented ball player and his influence to Sunderland has become apparent in his absence. In Cattermole’s 14 league games Sunderland have picked up 18 points. In the 11 games that he has missed through injury they have picked up a mere 8 points. His partnership in central midfield with Lorik Cana was imperious at the start of the season, with both players looking assured in possession and tigerish without. With Cana left to toil alone however the club have slipped from highfliers and seemingly Europa league contenders to the bottom half and a mere 3 points above the relegation zone.
Some of Cattermole’s tackles could be potentially career threatening, for himself as well as his opponent, and Cattermole does get the red mist too often. If he could just rein in his emotions at certain times, just as Wayne Rooney has learned to do, then he would become a better player. It would also be better for the success of his team with him on the field for longer periods of the game. The draw at Portsmouth for example is points dropped for Sunderland and Cattermole must take some responsibility for the result. If he had stayed on his feet then he would have stayed on the pitch and helped Sunderland to possibly go on and win the match.
I am a big fan of the competitive side of football. I believe that sides need to earn the right to play their football, and all teams need a physical element to their game. Cattermole epitomises the dogged English midfielder and he is a welcome change to some players in the Premier League who would prefer to win a free kick than genuinely compete for possession. I believe that he has a bright future ahead of him and he could do a good job at a better side than Sunderland. For his sake I hope that he can avoid the reckless challenges and importantly learn from his mistakes. He is still only 21 and his strong performances for the under 21 side may point to a possible international career, if he can stay on the pitch for long enough.
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