Lee Cattermole is a cause for concern for SAFC boss Martin O’Neill

Lee Cattermole'Sunderland AFC v Liverpool FC'Stadium of Light'Barclays Premier League  SOL'1-1 draw
Lee Cattermole'Sunderland AFC v Liverpool FC'Stadium of Light'Barclays Premier League SOL'1-1 draw

MARTIN O’NEILL admits Lee Cattermole’s injury record is a concern after another stop-start campaign for the Sunderland skipper.

Suspensions, and particularly injuries, have limited Cattermole to just 74 Premier League starts during his four seasons at the Stadium of Light.

The former Middlesbrough man sustained knee ligament damage during his maiden campaign on Wearside, suffered from a back problem the year after, was plagued by hamstring and knee injuries last season and has started just 10 league games this time around with more knee troubles.

The latest injury has restricted the influential Cattermole to only 60 minutes of first-team football since being diagnosed with medial ligament damage after November’s stalemate with QPR.

And after Cattermole was ruled out for the rest of the season this week when he underwent an operation to cure the problem, O’Neill hopes the 24-year-old can finally overcome his spells on the treatment table.

The Sunderland manager told SportMail: “I’ve not had the chance to check his whole record here.

“But just during my time here, he’s missed really big chunks of the season for either suspension or injury.

“He’ll be hoping now that this might be his last bit of bad luck.

“Hopefully he can get a proper pre-season and be ready for next season.”

Sunderland embarked upon a series of measures to get Cattermole back into first-team action, but neither rest nor a course of injections proved to be an effective solution.

The midfielder, who lasted just the first half of an attempted comeback against Arsenal last month, finally went under the surgeon’s knife on Wednesday.

And he will now remain in a protective knee brace for the next six weeks before beginning his rehabilitation programme to return in time for pre-season training.

“The news that Lee had to have an operation was really confirmation of what we knew already,” added O’Neill.

“He didn’t feel his knee was responding to a natural treatment so he went under the knife the other day.

“He’ll be in a brace for the next six weeks before he starts doing any work again.”