LEE Cattermole is confident Sunderland can be a stronger force in the Premier League this season – even if Gus Poyet doesn’t bring in any more new faces before the transfer window closes.
The Black Cats get their campaign underway at West Brom this afternoon looking to improve on last season’s near miss with relegation.
Will Buckley’s £2.5m arrival from Brighton and Hove Albion signalled the Black Cats’ seventh summer signing on Thursday following Billy Jones, Jordi Gomez, Costel Pantilimon, Patrick van Aanholt, Jack Rodwell and Santiago Vergini, but Poyet is still in the market for a striker and a centre-back.
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With Fabio Borini’s proposed move to the Stadium of Light continuing to drag on, and the head coach keen to add to his defensive options, there is every chance the Black Cats will be active in the market right up until the window closes on September 1.
“It’s always that last week (of the transfer window),” Cattermole said. “That’s normal. People try to do the best deals for their club. If we end up with this squad for the rest of the year it’s good enough to compete.
“We’ve just got to keep approaching every game as if this is our squad and anything which comes is a bonus.”
Cattermole almost left Sunderland this time last year after falling out of favour with Paolo Di Canio, but the midfielder re-invented himself under Poyet towards the end of last season.
Liam Bridcutt’s arrival in January has put pressure on Cattermole to keep his place in the side, but the former Middlesbrough man believes the competition will push both players to be stronger.
He said: “We’ve added a lot of quality and we’ve got a lot of people vying for the same shirt. It’s healthy. It keeps everyone on their toes.
“The players who start on Saturday will have the backing of the guys on the bench as well. We’ve got a strong group of lads who are all raring to go.
“There’s definitely more competition now. I’ve always tried to give my best. I think when I’ve been playing I’ve played well. If I’m in the team it’s obviously because I deserve to be.
“It’s good to have competition from Liam. I’ll learn things off him and he’ll learn things off me. It’s obvious that you need that.
“You can’t just have one player in the whole position all season, there’s going to be injuries and suspensions. Competition is healthy.
“Over the years I’ve been at Sunderland there’s not been too many defensive-minded midfield players. The likes of Jack (Colback) and Jordan Henderson wanted to get forward, so I’ve been left with more responsibility for defending. But now we’ve got other guys who can do that. We’ve got a stronger squad and we’re looking to do well.”
Sunderland came agonisingly close to losing their top flight status last season, but a run of four consecutive wins saw Poyet’s side climb to safety in May.
Everyone at the Stadium of Light is keen to avoid a repeat of last season’s near miss and Cattermole believes the memory of almost being relegated will drive the team forward this term.
“We’ll have good and bad spells over different times of the year and we’ve just got to not panic,” Cattermole said. “We can’t forget. Last year showed we can’t expect to win every game, it’s just not going to happen.
“We’ve got to be realistic. It’s going to be a long season and we’ve just got to be confident on Saturday and hope we can get off to a good start, but it should be a good season.
“This is the most exciting part of the year for a footballer. It’s important to go into the first game confident of what we’ve done in pre-season and keep trying to put that onto the pitch. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason on Saturday we know it’s going to be a long, hard season.
“I think in pre-season it’s shown. We’ve looked organised and in the last couple of games we’ve scored some goals too.
“We’re know it’s going to be a long season and we can’t expect too much but we’ve got to go into this season feeling confident."