Sunderland’s Martin O’Neill raps skipper

CARD BLOW ... Sunderland's Lee Cattermole looks dejected after being shown a red card.

CARD BLOW ... Sunderland's Lee Cattermole looks dejected after being shown a red card.

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MARTIN O’Neill had no sympathy for his shamed skipper last night after Lee Cattermole picked up the seventh sending-off of his career.

The Black Cats’ captain blotted his copybook half-an-hour into last night’s Capital One Cup tie at MK Dons when a reckless, studs-up lunge saw him receive a straight red card and a three-match ban.

“It was senseless and needless and didn’t give the referee much option in fairness,” fumed O’Neill after his side’s 2-0 success took them into the last 16.

“I’m told that he’s got five red cards here at Sunderland and seven in his career and, with him still being only 24, I think it’s something he needs to look at.

“He’s the captain of the side and, as a manager, you talk about the importance of discipline to players before the game and it is important your captain demonstrates that discipline.

“So it really is something he has to look at afresh.

“I’ve only seen a replay of the incident very, very briefly, but it looked to me as though he left the referee with no choice.”

O’Neill is a big fan of Cattermole and has spoken openly of his admiration of the midfielder’s leadership qualities on the pitch.

He sees the Teessider as a natural captain and has also confirmed that the club wants to hold on to a player who is now in the last year of his contract at the Stadium of Light.

But O’Neill will also drive home to the skipper that, unless he improves his disciplinary problems, he runs the risk of harming his career.

“The bottom line is you have to help yourself,” he said.

“As a player, you have to instil it within yourself how you’re going to go on.

“In incidents in games, the referee generally has only one quick look at it and, if you’re going to lunge in with your feet, you’re going to get sent off.

“That’s something he has to address.

“I wouldn’t say he’s at the crossroads of his career or anything like that, and I’m not searching around for a new captain.

“But it’s bad enough with the sending off, bad enough the consequences of it with him missing games.

“And the sad thing is that he’d got off to a very good start but now he’s missing three games and you just can’t afford it.”