Cattermole ready to spark survival
Lee Cattermole is ready to be the driving force behind a Sunderland resurgence as he attempts to spark another successful survival fight.
The 26-year-old midfielder returned after a 10-game injury lay-off to provide fresh impetus as the Black Cats were controversially denied a much-needed Barclays Premier League victory over West Brom on Saturday with many commentators citing his absence as one of the key factors in a worrying run of form.
Cattermole modestly side-stepped suggestions that his unavailability because of groin and knee injuries had impacted so heavily on Gus Poyet's team, but vowed to bring his characteristic vigour to the mission to ease the club up the table, which started with a frustrating 0-0 draw against the Baggies.
He said: "If that's what people want to say, that's fine. I believe I bring something to the team - I think I could bring something to most teams.
"I'd like to think I help players on the pitch, that's a key asset for me. I like to think I drive players on and get more out of them.
"That's one of my strong attributes and if that's been missed, it's been missed. But I'd like to think I am back now and I want to push on and I want to finish the season strongly."
Cattermole's return could hardly be more timely for Poyet after back-to-back 2-0 defeats by league rivals QPR and League One Bradford in the FA Cup fifth round had cast a pall over Wearside.
The former Middlesbrough and Wigan man could only look on helplessly as a chance to go one better than last season's Capital One Cup final appearance went begging, but he will not allow himself or his team-mates to dwell upon a missed opportunity.
He said: "It killed me watching the Bradford game. I was really disappointed on the back of last season and being so close to winning the Capital One Cup.
"That was something I really felt we could go and push on and get a good draw. It would have kept our season really alive, it would have kept a real buzz.
"But now we have got to push on and put every bit of focus on the league because it's such a tough division and it's proving to be really hard work."
Sunderland would have pushed on considerably further had the key decisions in Saturday's game gone their way, but ultimately had to settle for a 13th league draw of the season and the seventh stalemate which left them in 16th place and three points clear of the drop zone.
Referee Mike Jones' decision to book rather than send off defender Joleon Lescott for a fifth-minute foul on Danny Graham, which was spotted by assistant Constantine Hatzidakis, irked Poyet more than the pair's ruling that Adam Johnson was offside after he had appeared to put the home side ahead on the stroke of half-time.
The Uruguayan said: "I have watched it 20 times - he stopped and yes, it's onside. It's a tough one. I understand that referees are human beings and the linesman from 40 yards, the ball is flying and when he looks, Jonno is two yards behind, the perfect run. He can give the offside.
"I'll take that one. It hurts because it was a goal, but I'll take it. But the first one, no. The first one was a straightforward red card, and I don't think there's any doubt."
West Brom extended their run under Tony Pulis to just one defeat in nine games in all competitions, although by the manager's own admission, they were not at their best and even Saido Berahino failed to impress in front of watching England boss Roy Hodgson.
Pulis said: "Saido has been fantastic for us, but he took a knock early on in the game and he struggled with his ankle. But we wanted to keep him on because he has been playing so well for us.
"He can do things, special things, so we kept him on there. He is also a young lad who has to learn when things are not going well for him, he has to work hard for the rest of the team. He has done that and I am very, very pleased.
"Although we didn't play very well and he has had better days, his effort and commitment were first-class."