Phil Bardsley thinks Lee Cattermole is being punished by Premier League referees on his reputation.
But despite him running into a spot of bother with officials, the Sunderland defender is certain that Cattermole can play a pivotal role in the Black Cats’ battle with the drop.
The combative midfielder was at fault for two of Hull’s goals in the dispiriting 3-0 FA Cup sixth round reverse at the KC Stadium, a stark contrast to his first-half performance against Manchester City – which saw him pulling in plaudits for his League Cup final display.
Cattermole remains a divisive figure in football, but Gustavo Poyet now faces a major decision ahead of the crucial visit of Crystal Palace, with Liam Bridcutt also an option for the Uruguayan. Bardsley made it clear that the Sunderland dressing room has absolved the midfielder of blame and said that many of the yellow cards that he receives are based on his reputation rather than the fouls he is committing. He feels the “strong character” will continue to play a crucial role.
“The yellow card he received was pretty soft. I think his reputation goes ahead of him. A few of their players chirping has not helped the situation and he found himself getting a yellow card which was undeserved,” he said.
“I thought he was brilliant in the first half and very unfortunate with one mistakes. But he is a very strong character, he is my best pal and I don’t think you can rate him highly enough.”
The feelgood factor of the League Cup final evaporated in the East Yorkshire sun with criticism levelled at both Poyet for picking a weakened team and the replacements for performing well below their level.
Bardsley has a simple solution to answer the problems that arose over the weekend: “You have to go out there and win the next match don’t you? It’s not hard.
“We have got a whole week ahead of us now to train, re-focus and that’s what we will do, starting with the Crystal Palace game on Saturday where hopefully we can get the three points we need.
“The Palace game is absolutely vital, but at least we can take into it our performance from the first 45 minutes where I thought we were pretty good, without creating too many clear-cut chances.
“At the halfway stage we were well and truly in the game, but football punishes you if you make mistakes and they have cost us. We have to bounce back as a team. It is not about individuals because mistakes happen in football. We dust ourselves down this week and give it a really good go at the weekend.
“We have had a lot of games this season but there is no way we can make excuses for a disappointing result. We now have to get over it very quickly and concentrate on getting three points in what will be a almost a cup final for us.”
Luckily for Sunderland there was a run of results that dropped kindly for the Black Cats, with Fulham and Crystal Palace losing – and Stoke and Norwich sharing a draw that did little for either club’s survival chances. Returning to the Stadium of Light on Saturday for the visit of Palace, the Black Cats must capitalise on that if they are to strike a decisive blow in their bid to get out of the bottom three.
“Saturday went pretty well for us results-wise and you have to have a little look. Not every result is going to go the way you want but you have to look after yourselves first and foremost. You have to do enough to win football matches and this is a massive week for us as we desperately need to win this next game on Saturday,” said Bardsley.
“We are at home where we have not played for a few weeks and we will be looking forward to it. We have got to get the troops rallied for what for us is a must-win game.”