Not many footballers have had to dust themselves down and go again quite as many times as “Lee Barry Cattermole”. A footballer who has divided opinion across the country with his tough tackling, his unnecessarily high shorts, and his no nonsense thuggish charm.
The news of his retirement came as a shock to myself, being the same age as him it felt quite an early one, clearly injuries have taken their toll on his battle scared body. He’s had a rough 12 years of professional football out of his body and as my plumber’s knees will tell me, constant punishment becomes harder to deal with the older you get. 10 years of being a Sunderland player have contained lots of ups and twice as many downs. He has divided opinion massively throughout his time at the club, a Smoggie Radgie who could start fight in an empty room he quickly became a favourite amongst fans with his tough no nonsense tackling. His hustling and harrying of good Premier League players.
His tenacity and work ethic was a joy to watch and surrounded by decent players who could take the ball off him and make things happen he formed an effective midfield during one of our better spells, his disciplinary record, short fuse and generally being quite thick got him in a lot of trouble and refs couldn’t wait to flash a yellow in his face. 77 yellows and 8 reds in the Prem speak for themselves. His lack of goals also had question marks over him, amazingly he scored 3 in 3 years at Boro, 1 in 1 at Wigan and 10 in 10 years at Sunderland, albeit 7 of them in League One. His shockingly bad passing often ruined any flow to an attack and his rashness in the tackle gave chance to set piece deliveries into our box and with our defenders being mostly being a fragile bunch, extra pressure wasn’t welcomed by a Tasmanian devil chopping anyone down in his way and often sucker punched into getting cards by just being thick and falling for traps set by teams.
When he did score they tended to be beauties. A 25 yard rocket at West Brom on the opening day of the season and a long distance strike after running onto a loose ball at Spurs spring to mind. He played pivotal roles in big wins over the years. The derbies. Man City “JIIIIIIIIIIIIIII” at home. I also remember him bullying Arsenal in the MON era in the cup. His ups were often coupled up with lots of downs, his rashness and indiscipline often saw him sent for an early bath and often costing us points with his lack of composure. His off the field issues are also well documented damaging cars in Newcastle and his three year Pubwatch bans.
I was also once told he was having a conversation with a brick wall in a bar in Yarm. He was and is loved by a lot of Sunderland fans and equally disliked by others. His tackle on a certain ginger in a derby will be fondly remembered and his crunching tackle on Tiote set the tone for the Tyne Wear derby which followed the 5.1 humiliation. A fallout with Di Canio looked to of called time on his career with the lads. Banished to the reserves with a squad number of 33 by PDC. His days looked numbered however Paolo left and he became and integral part of Dick Advocaat’s miracle squad. Injuries. Suspensions and form meant he only cracked over 30 appearances once in 8 years in the Prem and twice in 10 years overall at the club. A cup final penalty miss will always leave a bitter taste especially from such a poor penalty. Just hit hard and low and hope for the best.
As his Sunderland career aged, my love for him grew thinner and thinner. I love a rough and ready tackling centre mid, he plays how I wish football still was. Taking the man and the ball. Upsetting players and a drive to win. He’s also someone who you could expect to bump into out on the lash. Something that rarely happens now. However, the fact that he looked very average in the Championship and equally poor in League One left a bad taste to me, he should of looked world class after dropping two levels in 12 month and he didn’t stand out at all, his legs had gone and his lack of passing ability even against poorer opposition was desperately bad. For a player who earned £40k a week in League One (most teams wage bill all together at this level) he was simply never good enough for a prolonged period. His desire to go into coaching should provide great experience for younguns coming through. However, I do hope that isn’t at Sunderland, ultimately he is a master of failure and a few miracle relegation scraps and some derby wins should not cloud judgement that he was often a liability and lost a lot more than he won.
I’m sure he’s a cracking lad and he’s been extremely fortunate to of made such a great living from his lack of ability. But good luck to him, he’ll never need to work another day in his life. For me he will always represent dark days as a Sunderland fan and hopefully we can look back and smile in years to come that at least it’s not as bad as it was.