LEE CATTERMOLE thinks Wahbi Khazri has provided Sunderland with something different in the fight to stay in the Premier League, with support from David Moyes.
The Black Cats boss had not started Khazri in a Premier League game since the end of October until he appeared against West Ham United last weekend, having raised question marks over his fitness and attitude.
But the Tunisian provided Sunderland with a lift to help earn a point against the Hammers, even if the result still leaves the Wearsiders with a huge task to stay up.
Loading article content
Moyes might have had his issues and reasons for overlooking the former Bordeaux man as often as he has, but he praised him in the dressing room afterwards.
And Cattermole feels Khazri has the desire and affection for the club to try to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.
He said: “It was great to see Wahbi out there, the manager was first to congratulate him on his performance as well which was nice.
“It was great to have him out there, he gives you a bit of energy, the ability to take the ball, pass it and follow it, he’s a great lad, he’s lively and what you want on the pitch with you.
“It has been difficult for him of late for one reason or another, but he’s shown how much he wants to play for the club.”
Sunderland have won just one of their last 15 Premier League games, and have lost six of their last eight matches to drop closer to the Championship.
With six matches remaining, Moyes must try to close the nine-point gap to safety and that could be even wider by the time they head for Middlesbrough on Wednesday.
Cattermole has enjoyed being back in action after his own absence from the first team stage because of injury, but has provided an extra edge in the middle that has been lacking this season.
And the Stockton-born 29-year-old, set to face his first club Boro next week, has enjoyed being back in the mix for the last three games.
He said: “A couple of the lads coming into the team, it was nice for myself to play with Darron Gibson for the first time, Wahbi coming in, Javier Manquillo as well. It is good for them and it is good for the morale as well to see fresh faces.”
Sunderland’s first team are without a game this weekend because of Arsenal's FA Cup semi-final, but the Under-23s face the Gunners at Eppleton at noon tomorrow. It's Sunderland’s penultimate match in Division One, where they are eighth. Elliot Dickman’s side have not won in the league since December 9. The second string have performed better in the Premier League International Cup. They face Porto in the final at the Stadium of Light on May 17 after winning their group.