Lee Cattermole’s Sunderland career has been plunged into further doubt after it emerged that the club have taken away his favoured squad number – as he trains with the juniors while the first-team squad step up preparations for the new season in Hong Kong.
The Black Cats’ skipper is recovering from a serious knee injury that has ruled him out since March, but his absence from the Barclays Asia Trophy also coincides with the club making it clear to him that he can leave if a suitable offer is made for him.
And news that he will not be playing in the number six shirt that he has been wearing since 2010 adds to the feeling that he is being edged out of contention by Paolo Di Canio. It is understood that the decision was made without consulting the player.
Cattermole’s colleagues will kick off their Barclays Asia Trophy campaign against Tottenham this morning as Sunderland step up the intensity of their summer programme. The absence of their captain was noteworthy, even if – like Steven Fletcher – he has been missing since March and has work to do to match the fitness of his colleagues.
Hull City and Fulham are both interested in Cattermole and a reunion with Steve Bruce, who was responsible for bringing him to the Stadium of Light in the first place, would appear to be the most likely scenario.
However, Cattermole only recently signed a new contract with Sunderland and any interested suitors will have to match his wages – unless the Black Cats are prepared to take a major hit on the midfielder.
Di Canio has overseen a major revolution in both personnel and attitude at the Stadium of Light this summer and is ready to jettison several first-team regulars, with Phil Bardsley having already confirmed his imminent exit.
David Vaughan is also set to depart while Alfred N’Diaye is being courted by Eskiehirspor – who could end his stint on Wearside after just six months. There is also uncertainty surrounding the future of Jack Colback, who has turned down a contract offer from the club.
Sunderland will hand the midfield anchor role to new signing Cabral next season, while Swedish newcomer David Moberg Karlsson has also made a positive impression on the club. However, there is not much Premier League experience in Di Canio’s proposed starting XI, which makes their stance over Cattermole a touch puzzling. It is likely that Cabral will be given the No 6 that has been held by Cattermole, who was given it after the departure of previous skipper Lorik Cana.
Meanwhile, Di Canio has added further intrigue to the ongoing Gino Peruzzi transfer saga by ruling out the chances of the Argentina defender signing imminently.
His club Velez Sarsfield tried to force the issue surrounding the right-back earlier this week by insisting he would clinch a move to the Stadium of Light when Ellis Short returned from a business trip, but Di Canio said that the concerns thrown up by his medical have stalled the deal.
“At the moment, there is no chance for Gino Peruzzi to join us,” the Sunderland boss said.
“My club is not a club that can sign players with some problems.”
Meanwhile, Fletcher has been left out of the Scotland squad to face England next month, with the striker facing a race against time to be fit for Sunderland’s first game of the season.