Lee Cattermole says Sunderland’s entire future is at stake as they enter the final furlong of their gruelling survival fight, writes.
The Black Cats’ midfielder has experienced relegation with Middlesbrough and admits he struggled to handle the job cuts and slashed budgets that followed the Teessiders’ demotion into the second tier.
The impact of relegation in 2009 is still felt keenly at the Riverside and Cattermole has noticed a change in mood among his Middlesbrough-supporting family about the football club. The Premier League buzz has long since evaporated and he admits it is “not the same” for the club now that they are plying their trade in the second tier.
That experience has given him an acute sense of why staying in the Premier League is important to Sunderland. Cattermole believes that survival would be “massive”, both securing the immediate future of the club and also giving them a platform to build on for next year.
They head to Manchester United this week looking to collect enough points from their final three games to keep their heads above water when the season ends on May 11.
“I know what is at stake and how important it is to keep the club up,” Cattermole says.
“You look at Middlesbrough for instance. I would really struggle to deal with going down.
“I know the consequences of it.”
Expanding on the theme, he suggested that the impact of relegation would be wide-ranging and would ravage the club. The midfielder said: “This is a huge club and a big city. Football is what the city lives for. If we go
down a lot of people will lose their jobs. Everything goes down, the attendances, the kids won’t enjoy their football as much and look forward to games as much. Everyone wants to see the big names.
“I just know from my relationship with Boro how my cousins and family talk about football. It is not the same as the people her do. There is not the buzz around if you go down. We have got an opportunity now to survive this. It would be massive. The lads realise those consequences.
“We have given ourselves a great opportunity which even a lot of lads in the dressing room didn’t think we would have. Everyone on the outside thought we were dead and buried.”
Cattermole is one of the few first-team players contracted to remain at the club next season but the effort and commitment exhibited by even those who are set to leave has been impressive.
The likes of Jack Colback, Phil Bardsley, Seb Larsson and Craig Gardner are all likely to depart, but Cattermole feels their attitude in some crucial recent games has made a mockery of those who have questioned the mentality of the squad.
“With the way the lads are now there is too much to let slip and we really need to dig in this last week of the season and grind the results out,” said Cattermole. “Some lads are out of contract but all I can say everyone who is out of contract has been great, good professionals and respecting each other.
“A lot of my friends, lads I have know a long time, are out of contract. They might have the odd bad day thinking hey won’t be here next season but that has not shown.
“They have been at it every minute. I don’t think anyone wants to go into the summer thinking they have just been relegated. The lads have all been fantastic.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Ki has asked to leave Sunderland to rehabilitate a troublesome knee injury in time for the World Cup.
Gus Poyet admitted that the Swansea midfielder is unlikely to play again this season and his father has told Korean media that he has requested to go.
“Ki Sung-yueng has asked the team to let him leave early,” he said.
“Head coach Gus Poyet will make the final decision after Sunderland’s away match against Manchester United. I think Sunderland may feel that it’d be better off for him to focus on a quick recovery (at home) if he can’t play in the last match anyway. Sung-yueng will follow whatever decision the team reaches.”