By Kevin Koczwara
Lee Cattermole played under Steve Bruce at Wigan last year. This year, he plays under Bruce at Sunderland, and he is thriving as the holding midfielder for The Black Cats.
The 21-year-old center midfielder was a hot commodity this summer transfer window with the likes of Liverpool rumored to be interested in the England U-21 International. But, Bruce got his man. Snapping up the youngster for a reported £6 million (Wigan made a £2.5 million profit), and in getting his man he has got a skilled, ambitious and strong midfielder.
What else did he get this summer in the signing of the youngster?
The Importance of the Holding Midfielder
This weekend Sunderland went into Old Traffod with high expectations, but no one outside of the club really believed The Black Cats could beat Manchester United at their stomping ground for the first time in 40 years. But Sunderland went into added time with a 2-1 lead, only to fall victim to a late own goal from Anton Ferdinand (brother of United’s Rio Ferdinand) and end up with a 2-2 tie.
The reason for the success at Old Trafford this weekend? The strength and ball-hawking nature of the central-midfielders of Sunderland, Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole. The two moved into The Staduim of Light, Sunderland’s stadium, for what will total around £11 million. Steve Bruce brought the two in to shore up the midfield so that Sunderland can begin to control matches, not be controlled by other teams midfield players. And at Old Trafford, the two new Black Cats wreaked havoc on Paul Scholes in the first half–forcing his substitution at half– and shutdown the pipeline to Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, causing them much frustration. There arrival has announced a change in Sunderland and the Premier League’s landscape. So, when the Black Cats cross a club’s path it may be bad luck for any squad.
Cana has the experience: once the captain of Marsielle. Cattermole has the youth, and the drive. It is a perfect pairing for the Black Cats as they try to move up the Premier League table. (By the way, Cana is still full of youth. At 26 he is still young, and has room to grow.)
The two midfielders posses the drive and strength needed of holding midfielders to control and posses a game. They make strong tackles and don’t miss very often. Physically they outmatch and outwit their foes by using their agility, and stamina to uphold and attack opponents other midfielders and cut off the pipeline to teams strikers.
Look at this weekends match at Old Trafford and what the pairing did to the always trustworthy Paul Scholes. He looked more like Lucas Leva than the creative and trustworthy Scholes everyone has come to expect. The pressure put on by the two Black Cat midfielders broke down the United passing schemes and attacking lanes. They created a haggard attack by the always fluid and controlled United. Wayne Rooney was screaming at his midfielders and back tracking past the halfway line just to get touches on the ball. Even the disinterested Berbatov showed some flashes of anger and emotion, yelling at the ref and his teammates. The Black Cats got a reaction out of the always calm Berbatov, that means they did one hell of job on the United attack.
Cattermole has Big Upside
It is easy to see why Liverpool were interested in the youngster to replace Xabi Alonso. He is a strong tackler, young, good passer, and has a natural instinct for positioning on the pitch. He has that rare sense of position, location and know how, like a sixth sense on the field for where play is going. And add the fact that he has strong tackling skills, and you have a potential holding midfielder for years to come.
It is no surprise that Steve Bruce, Cattermole’s boss at Wigan, got the money to buy the youngster for Sunderland after his own move. He is what every team needs to succeed in the English Premier League and European play. He adds a dimension of stability to the back, and an outlet for the back to the front.
Cattermole staying under Bruce’s tutelage is a positive for him as well. Bruce was renowned for his skill at passing the ball under pressure in the center of United’s defense and can teach the youngster how to stay poised in the middle of the field and make smart plays. Bruce was also known for his heart and bravery on the field, both things Cattermole does not lack, and he can teach the youngster how to harness his competitive drive into useful play.
The youngster will soon figure into England’s senior squad and become a regular fixture in the middle for them. He will be a much needed player with a strong drive to control the midfield and break down other national teams best midfielders and attacking players. Something England seems to lack at times.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter @TheSoccerGuys. Check out Kevin’s other blog: Feel Da Beat, and follow him on Twitter @kkoczwara.