GUS Poyet says he “does not have the words” to describe how influential Lee Cattermole has been since he arrived at the club in October.
And ahead of tomorrow’s crunch game against Norwich City at the Stadium of Light (kick-off 3pm), Poyet revealed he believes the former club captain could play a major part in driving the Black Cats to Premier League safety.
On Tuesday, for the second game in a row, Poyet gave Cattermole the pivotal defensive midfield role, pushing Ki Sung-Yueng further upfield and the Teessider was not only the architect of the equalising Capital One Cup but also produced a man-of-the-match performance.
Poyet said: “Everyone has opinions but for me, I have no words high enough to praise him.
“My first game in charge, the game at Swansea, the best player for us? Lee Cattermole.
“The next game, the derby against Newcastle United, for that first hour against them he was the perfect player to have on the pitch in a derby game.
“The game against Hull, he was one of our best players but then he picked up the red card – that is Lee Cattermole as well.
“During his suspension we started to play OK so he had to wait for his chance to get back in but he got back in against West Ham and was one of our best players.
“And then he goes on to play against Chelsea in the cup on Tuesday and was in my view man-of-the-match.
“Ki played very well in the defensive midfield role but sometimes when someone plays as well as Lee has been, you have to find a place in your side for him.”
Poyet knows all about Cattermole’s previous disciplinary problems,
And he witnessed the 25-year-old’s hot-headedness for himself at the KC Stadium last month, when Cattermole was sent off just before half-time for a foul on his former team-mate, Hull midfielder Ahmed Elmohamady.
But the Uruguayan believes that Sunderland’s new style of play will be a perfect match for Cattermole’s abilities.
He said: “We want him to be much more controlled, and the biggest compliment I can give him is that he wants to know how we want to play as a coaching staff, he wants to learn.
“Our way means that he is not charging here, there and everywhere.
“He has freedom but he has a particular role to play in the side and he has responded to that and is enjoying.
“When he doesn’t try to win every tackle on the pitch, for everyone else, as well as himself, then you start to see him at his best.”
l THE first leg of Sunderland’s Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester United will take place on Tuesday, January 7 (kick-pff 7.45pm) – just 48 hours after the FA Cup third round tie against Carlisle, with the reigning league champions hosting Swansea on the Sunday too.
The second leg at Old Trafford will take place on Wednesday, January 22.