Lee Cattermole will have a regular place in Dick Advocaat’s first-choice Sunderland XI, if he can put his troubled start to the season behind him.
Cattermole is expected to make his first start in four games at Manchester United today in place of injury doubt Jack Rodwell after Advocaat was encouraged by the 27-year-old’s display as a half-time substitute in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup defeat to Manchester City.
He was a really big factor in last season, on and off the pitch.
The midfielder – who penned a new five-year deal during the summer – was a key figure in Sunderland’s escape from the drop under Advocaat at the end of last season, yet endured an awful start to this campaign, where he conceded penalties at both Leicester and Aston Villa.
But Advocaat spoke with Cattermole after the 4-1 loss against City to praise his controlled display and hopes that is the sign of a permanent change of fortunes for the Teessider.
Advocaat said: “I told him that it was much better.
“He was a really big factor in last season, on and off the pitch.
“But I was not happy with the way he was playing at the start of the season.
“He came on the other night though and he did what he had to do – kept it simple, played it to the other players and controlled things.
“If he can do that, then he is for this club.”
Advocaat believes Cattermole’s problems at the start of the season stemmed from an over-exuberance.
Cattermole has also had to adapt to a slightly modified position, with Advocaat not using the strict holding midfielder role which was a favourite ploy of predecessor Gus Poyet.
But Advocaat knows that when Cattermole is on-song, he can be a key figure for Sunderland with his leadership both on and off the field.
“He was over-enthusiastic in the first few games,” added Advocaat.
“And then you start jumping on somebody (for the penalty at Aston Villa).
“But at least he is someone who uses his mouth. He’s a leader.
“He’s not afraid to do something. Sometimes, our players are too frightened.”