Born on this day in 1988 is former Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole. In a career that spanned 15 years, Catts earned a reputation for being a tough-tackling midfielder with a poor disciplinary record...
Cattermole came through Middlesbrough’s academy and made his debut in the Tyne-Tees 'Derby' against the Mags. The game finished 2-2, but the young midfielder was named Man of the Match. Boro coach Steve McClaren said: "I thought young Lee Cattermole was outstanding on his debut. He's only 17 and didn't look out of place at all. When we needed people to stand up and be counted, it took a 17-year-old to bring everyone together."
Catts became Middlesbrough’s youngest ever captain in May 2006, when he wore the armband in a 1-0 defeat at Fulham. He was only 18 years and 47 days old!
The Stockton-born midfielder was 20 when he sealed a move to Wigan in 2008, with Latics boss Steve Bruce saying: "He's got everything going for him, he's young, he's courageous, he's a tireless worker and I think he can have a great career in football, hopefully for this club.”
In his debut season at Wigan, Cattermole was sent off twice- once for a double yellow against his future employers Sunderland, and once for a horror tackle on West Ham’s Scott Parker. Despite this, and nine yellow cards, he attracted plenty of suitors due to impressive performances.
New Sunderland boss Steve Bruce managed to convince Catts to follow him back to the North East, for a fee of £6 million. He made his debut for us in a 1-0 win over Bolton, earning the Man of the Match award.
He was popular throughout his first season on Wearside, despite spending a lot of time on the sidelines- either suffering with injuries, or serving suspensions. He struck up an all-action partnership with Lorik Cana in midfield, even keeping a certain Jordan Henderson out of the team at times. However, he only managed to play 22 league games in an injury-and-suspension hit season.
The following season was just as inconsistent in terms of game time, playing 23 league games in
total. In fact, during our time in the Premier League Cattermole only reached 30 appearances once. This was in the 2015/16 season, where he was instrumental in our survival under Big Sam.
Lee Cattermole played some of his best football during Gus Poyet’s ‘Great Escape’. He’d found a role in the side that suited him perfectly, and he could showcase some of his underrated passing qualities and a great knowledge of when to press and how to do it effectively.
Around 2016 though, the drop-off in quality from Cattermole was clear to see. He couldn’t get around the pitch as easily, his passing had declined massively and his injury list was ever-increasing. In 2019, before the League One Play-Off final, he admitted that he’d played around two seasons of football where he probably shouldn’t have been on the pitch. He’d been affected for years by a hip problem, but instead of getting treatment wanted to soldier on.
In League One, he looked like a man rejuvenated. He’d found some goalscoring form out of nowhere. Before that season, he’d only ever scored with a smart finish against Spurs (in a 5-1 defeat where Harry Kane scored his first Premier League goal) and a 25-yard screamer against West Brom. In the third tier though, he managed seven goals! Although these goalscoring exploits dried up when it came to taking the deciding pen in the Checkatrade Final.
He was still on Premier League wages when we were defeated by Charlton, which meant his position as a player was untenable. He left the club on a free transfer after 10 years of service, moving to Dutch side VVV Venlo.
He was quickly released though as COVID-19 curtailed the season, and has since moved into a coaching club with Middlesbrough, where it all began.