For a player who has played less than 100 Premier League games in five years at Sunderland, it always seems to come down to Lee Cattermole for Sunderland.
The influence that one midfielder has had on a club who have tried to sell him twice and who has lost the club captaincy in the last 12 months is remarkable.
But then, Cattermole still possesses the ability to mould a game like no other player in the red-and-white ranks.
Cattermole’s litany of indiscretions – from red cards to the occasional off-the-field scrape – means that he will perhaps never be taken seriously as a player with England aspirations, but on his day there is no doubt that he can mix it with the best.
January 1, 2012 remains one of his finest hours in red-and-white. The opponents were a newly minted Manchester City, who would go on to win the title and reassemble the order of English football but not before Sunderland had performed one of the most complete defensive jobs that they had been subjected to all season.
Cattermole was the lionheart that day, going toe-to-toe with Yaya Toure in a performance that seemed to confirm to Martin O’Neill that he had a player he could really rely on.
Two years on and Cattermole is the one confirmed starter in a line-up that Gus Poyet will be agonising over. With Liam Bridcutt doing his job in the Premier League cheaper and with less collateral damage, this may be the final chance for Cattermole to illustrate his worth in red-and-white.
It said something that on Saturday Poyet preferred to leave him out because Andre Marriner was the referee. It spoke of distrust of Marriner but also an element of worry about what Cattermole is capable of. Can he be trusted?
For the umpteenth time this week, Cattermole’s presence will be a big one ahead of the biggest games Sunderland have played in since 1992. He mirrors the club he represents: flawed, fully committed and fantastic on his day. For Sunderland fans hoping to see history written on Sunday, they will hope Cattermole has read the script.