From the first minute he was shoring up his defensive line with a number of tackles, and he played a key part in lifting the spirits of his teammates as the game wore on with a goalless scoreline. The 26-year-old completed a game-high seven tackles, as well as three interceptions, three clearances and two blocks, and he appears to be in a rich vein of form heading into the new year.
With the nature of the game, the uncapped midfielder had little impact as a creative force, but his defensive performance far outweighed that shown by the £47 million Chelsea duo of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic, and, following the game, the question arose of how he has still yet to win a call-up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
His performance was one in a long line of showings that saw Cattermole named North East Football Writers’ Association’s Player of the Year for 2014, and the former Black Cats captain was praised in the aftermath by Wes Brown, who claimed that he should be ranked alongside the best midfielders in the world for his defensive ability.
Speaking to the Chronicle, former Manchester United defender Brown said: “Lee Cattermole got us going with the first couple of tackles in the first couple of minutes of the game.
“His performance was brilliant, and his defending is up there with any midfielder I’ve seen.
“In every single game, you can never say he doesn’t try to give everything. He runs all day and shows 100 per cent commitment in every game. I’d be the first to rely on him because I know he’s going to do it every game.
“I thought he wanted it more than a few of their players as well. That’s why he’s so valuable to us.”
The only real criticism of Cattermole’s play has been his less than respectable disciplinary record that has dogged his entire career. A common receiver of both yellow and red cards, should he continue at his current rate, he could well be the most disciplined player in Premier League history when he retires from the game. However, his punishments are an outcome of his intense style of play, and the 26-year-old should be commended for his attitude, with Brown’s opinion of him not too far off the mark.