LEE CATTERMOLE admits he has barely given this weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby a second thought, with Sunderland in the midst of a hectic fixture schedule.
The Black Cats will aim for a third successive win over Newcastle United when they head to St James’s Park on Saturday after a four-game unbeaten run against the Magpies.
But the usual frenetic build-up to the derby has been more subdued this time around after being overshadowed by events elsewhere.
The January transfer window will slam shut at 11pm on Friday, less than 14 hours before kick-off, while the trip to Tyneside will be Sunderland’s fifth game inside 15 days.
And while midfielder Cattermole is hoping to continue Sunderland’s Midas touch against Newcastle, he says the demands of the fixture list – continuing with tonight’s visit of Stoke City – have put the derby on the back-burner.
“The derby hasn’t really been mentioned,” said Cattermole (below), who continues to be linked with a move to Stoke.
“I haven’t even given it a thought because there’s that many games and you’ve got to keep preparing for the next one.
“But it’ll come around and it will be another special day for everybody and we’ve been doing well in that fixture recently.
“We’ve got to go again tonight and straight into the derby after that. It’s all go.
“But when you’re a team playing well, that’s what you want.”
Sunderland’s return of eight points from their last five Premier League outings has vastly improved the survival chances of Gus Poyet’s men.
But if they are to beat the drop, Sunderland will need to improve their home form after failing to emerge victorious from the five league games at the Stadium of Light since beating Manchester City in November.
The Black Cats came from two goals down to earn a point in their last home league outing against Southampton though and Cattermole believes it may be a case of Poyet’s side needing to keep their calm against their fellow strugglers, who pile men behind the ball.
“We seem to be doing better away from home at the moment, but we came back against Southampton, who are a very good team,” he added.
“We came back from that and we need the same attitude against Stoke to keep grinding out results.
“We’ve played the big teams at home and we’re a solid unit and hard to beat.
“Then when you play against Norwich or Aston Villa, you commit more men forward because the onus is more on us to go out and win the game.
“That can sometimes make it a bit more difficult when, as a team, we perhaps need to focus more on making sure we play exactly the same way as we do against the bigger sides.
“That again comes down to having a bit of bottle, and maybe not responding so much to the pressure on you from the stands.
“Everyone wants to close the ball down – no-one more than me – but at the same time you don’t want to commit yourself and end up losing.
“That’s the message the gaffer has given us.”