SUNDERLAND captain Lee Cattermole will report back for pre-season training today fitter than ever and desperate to begin what he believes could be a golden period for the club.
The midfielder struggled towards the end of the last campaign with a persistent ankle injury which affected his form, and meant he missed a couple of games during the run-in.
However, the 24-year-old returns to work this morning, along with the majority of the Black Cats first-team squad, feeling fresher than he has for a long time – and impatient for the season to start.
Despite the fact the only new face at the Academy of Light is going to be Carlos Cuellar, who signed on a free after leaving Aston Villa, the air of optimism that hung over the club for the second half of last season has not gone away.
And the skipper can’t wait to get started again after what, for him, has been too long a close season this time around.
Cattermole said: “The break was good, even if it was longer than I would have liked. It even got to a point where I was looking forward to getting back in to it.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the lads again. I’m sure they will get back in and have a few stories to tell.
“This time of the year is always exciting and a good time.
“I finished last season with an ankle problem and I also fought a knee injury for a couple of months as well – and then one of the young lads caught me in training.
“However, I am fine now. It was just rest that was required for both injuries.
“I did miss that Manchester United game on the final day of the season, but I’m ready for the
new season now. It’s all exciting.” While Martin O’Neill has not seriously dipped into the transfer market as yet, the Sunderland boss will have his own team ready for the time the season begins, with an away trip to Arsenal to look forward to on the opening weekend.
Cattermole enjoys a good relationship with the Irishman – and believes this will be a very different Sunderland team to the one that struggled for a lot of the previous campaign.
He said: “This season is Martin’s main season and he’s had time to prepare
“I’m sure he will bring some more players in. He will really stamp his authority on the side and that’s why it’s a really exciting year. Hopefully it will go well – I’m sure it will.” The experienced Cuellar is the first player to arrive this summer and the club captain – who has played against the defender on a number of occasions – has welcomed the Spaniard’s signing.
Cattermole said: “Carlos has been a great player over the years in the Premier League. It will be good to have him on board. It shows what Martin thinks of him to sign him again.
“It’s a great time of the year, when you get new faces and there’s a fresh approach to everything.
“Everyone is fresh. We are all just looking forward to the new season now.” Some of the players who have had busier close seasons than the rest will be missing from training.
The Euro 2012 players – Irish trio John O’Shea, Keiren Westwood and James McClean, plus Swede Seb Larsson – have been given more time off, as has Stephane Sessegnon and Ahmed Elmohamady who played in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.