LEE CATTERMOLE’S return will have a knock-on effect on the whole of the Sunderland team, believes Gus Poyet.
Cattermole is due to make his first appearance of 2015 in today’s crunch Stadium of Light clash against West Brom after the midfielder has spent almost two months on the sidelines with groin and knee problems.
The 26-year-old has been a notable miss during his absence, with Sunderland lacking his drive and presence in the middle of the park.
Fellow defensive midfielder Liam Bridcutt is well aware of the requirements of the role after three years working under Poyet at Brighton, and a further 12 months at the Stadium of Light.
But Poyet admits that Bridcutt doesn’t have the same impact on the rest of the side as Cattermole, regardless of what he does with the ball.
Poyet told SportMail: “Yes he’s got that presence. He brings the rest up to a level of concentration and aggression which is great for everybody.
“It’s more his influence on the team in terms of his running and pressing, than the understanding of the role. In that, Lee is much better than Liam.
“We thought in the beginning we were able to cope without Lee, but in certain ways, we didn’t.”
Ironically, Cattermole could face another term of absence if he is booked today, with the Teessider just one yellow card away from going into double figures and incurring a two-match ban.
But with Sunderland a precarious two points above the relegation zone and facing the incentive of leapfrogging West Brom in the table, Poyet will take his chances.
The head coach will do likewise with Jermain Defoe, even though the January signing has been limited to light training this week due to a calf problem.
“He’s not going to play injured, that’s for sure, because you can’t,” added Poyet. “Now, if he feels all right and the medical staff agree that he can give us a hand for as long as possible, then we will take that risk.
“But it can’t be a silly one that he’s out after five minutes.
“The idea is to make sure that we are convinced that it’s the best decision.”