Lee Cattermole has forced his way into Gustavo Poyet’s plans for Wednesday’s trip to Anfield after being part of a substitution the Uruguayan never thought he would have to make.
Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson were part of a double 40th-minute tactical substitution as Poyet tried to shake his side out of a pathetic start at Norwich City.
He went on to be Sunderland’s man of the match – although that was the faintest of faint praise – but was unable to alter the 2-0 scoreline.
His performance alongside fellow holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt gave Poyet food for thought and spared him questions raised about the appetite of his team-mates.
“It was good to see the drive from Lee, that’s why I changed it,” said the coach. “Probably the people who analyse the game think because we were 2-0 down you shouldn’t play Lee Cattermole because you need an offensive player, but it wasn’t about an offensive player, it was about character, bringing other people into the game and giving me something we didn’t have – energy. That’s what Lee is all about.
“A few people have asked me in the past can Liam and Lee play together – yes they can. It’s about the moment, the time, the game and how we’re going to use them.”
For a professional to be substituted in the first half without being injured is unusual. Jack Colback and Ki Sung-Yeung suffered that fate on Saturday.
Poyet had never made such a double substitution before “and I thought when I started my career as a manager I never would,” he said. “But you can’t say ‘never’, no?
“I’m not saying it because I want to defend the players. Jack and Ki have been outstanding for me but I needed to change something and that was the best option. It worked for a while. Not enough, but we were a different team in the second half.”
Poyet very noticeably ducked the question when asked if enough players had played for their club and their futures in a game between two relegation-threatened sides.
“I don’t know the answer,” he said. “But we didn’t look like it. We didn’t look like we were really fighting for our lives in the first 30 minutes.
“Norwich were brave and everything went for them, the rebounds, the second balls and the long shots.
“Jack Colback and Ki played a part (in the poor performance) but it was not because of them two. I couldn’t change seven or eight.
“I’m very disappointed, it was kind of a final for us, and you cannot play in the way we played for the first ten minutes. I’m not happy.”
Poyet must make changes for the trip to Liverpool; he will be missing the left-hand side of his team. Fabio Borini – on loan from the Reds – is ineligible, while Marcus Alonso is suspended after a pointless but arguably overdue second yellow card for handball in added time on Saturday.
“That shows how the season is going for us,” was Poyet’s response to Alonso’s dismissal. “I’ve been asked if we are a dirty team because we’re getting too many red cards (six this season if you discount a rescinded one for Wes Brown).
“I don’t think the game was that bad for so many yellows but I won’t blame Phil Dowd; sometimes you try to calm things quickly but after you’ve shown one or two (cards) you need to show five or six or seven because everyone looks like a bad tackle (in comparison). He made a decision that was wrong but it didn’t influence the game at all.”
Sunderland remain in 18th place, still three points adrift of safety.