PHIL Bardsley believes Lee Cattermole can be Sunderland’s driving force at Wembley and says he’s glad the midfielder’s name was the first pencilled on the team sheet for the Capital One Cup final.
With January signing Liam Bridcutt cup-tied, Cattermole is the obvious candidate for the defensive midfield role which could prove so pivotal to Sunderland’s hopes tomorrow.
Gus Poyet paid the 25-year-old the compliment of leaving him out of last week’s game at Arsenal for fear that the Teessider might get injured or suspended and be unavailable for the Wembley showpiece.
That’s fine by Bardsley who loves to have Cattermole in the trenches.
“Lee’s an influential player for us and a close pal of mine as well and I’ve always enjoyed playing alongside him,” the ex-Man United man told SportMail. “You know what you are going to get from him.
“And if I was a Man City player, the last person I would be looking forward to playing against in midfield would be him.
“I think he has that presence about him and I know he’s looking forward to the game itself.
“He’s a vital part of our team.
“He’s a strong character and if it is tough he’s always going to be there fighting, tackling and trying to do the right things for the team.”
Cattermole’s place in the side has been put under pressure by the arrival of Bridcutt from Brighton.
The £2.5m January signing is loved by Poyet for his perpetual motion, tackling and passing and the head coach’s most satisfying moment in the transfer window came when Ellis Short backed the decision to hang on to Cattermole and have the two players fighting for the same role.
As far as Poyet is concerned, it is the perfect competition and Bardsley believes the savvy move by the boss can also bring out the best in the former Middlesbrough star.
“As well as the obvious qualities Lee has, I think that the manager has brought out another side of his play,” suggested Bardsley.
“He’s been super on the ball, I think it’s something he’s working on – especially in the recent cup game against Southampton, where I thought he was the best player on the pitch by a country mile.”
Both Bardsley and Cattermole will be concentrating on using the ball well and the full-back says that will be crucial against a Man City side that play the ball so well but also allow their opposition to play too.
Bardsley, scorer of the match-winner in the 1-0 win over the Blues back in November, said: I’ve watched City over the last few weeks quite closely and one of the things I have noticed about them they don’t press you that much.
“Whether that might change I don’t know but I’ve noticed they do give you time to play and that might suit us.
“Having said that, they do like to play with two out-and-out forwards with a pace in the team and that’s going to be a real challenge for us.
“We know we’re in for a difficult game whatever happens but we have to make that when we do win the ball, we keep it and use it well.
“On top of that, we have to battle all over the pitch and that’s where Lee leads by example.”