LEE CATTERMOLE has called time on his playing career at the age of 32.

The former Middlesbrough, Wigan and Sunderland midfielder has confirmed his retirement to concentrate on securing his coaching badges.

Cattermole’s final season was in the Netherlands with VVV Venlo, where his stay was cut short when the Eredivisie was brought to an early end because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Stockton-born and raised midfielder has had a lot of time to think about the future during the lockdown, and has decided the time is right to hang up his playing boots.

Cattermole, who made 11 appearances to help Venlo stave off the threat of relegation, said: “With the current situation, the amount of time I have had at home, and a great season in Holland, the time is right for me to look into going down the coaching route.

The Northern Echo:

“Ordinarily I don’t think it would have been this year, my aim would have been to play two more seasons. Given how long it was since I last played, the more time I have been away from playing, the more I have thought about the game and getting on the training pitch.

“It was a difficult decision. If the season hadn’t finished like it did in May then things might not have been like this, but I think this is right.

“Since making the decision this week, which surprisingly wasn’t emotional for me, I have been really excited about the future. It’s really exciting and this is the right time for me.”

The Northern Echo:

Cattermole made 271 Premier League appearances and headed for the Netherlands last summer after ten years in the Premier League, Championship and League One with Sunderland.

Steve McClaren handed the Middlesbrough academy graduate his top-flight debut aged just 17 at Newcastle United on January 2, 2006, when he was named man of the match.

He was Boro’s youngest ever captain aged 18 and 47 days when he led the side out at Fulham on May 7 that year, soon after appearing in the UEFA Cup final against Sevilla.

Cattermole moved to Wigan two years later to work with Steve Bruce, who then took him to Sunderland the following summer for £6m with a reputation as a no-nonsense midfielder.

He has always loved examining the game and coaching styles, leading to him heading to Northern Ireland this week to begin the pursuit of his coaching badges.

He said: “I have always wanted to coach/manage. Now is a good opportunity to focus on that.

“I am 100 per cent fit, I have kept myself fit, I would anyway. I still have a lot of drive, energy, and I want to now put that into coaching to help others get better.

“It’s exciting, it feels like I am going back to the start again. It is about making my way in coaching. It is a huge challenge and one I am really excited about getting stuck into.”

Cattermole was loved and hated during his career because of his fully-committed playing style, but he will always cherish what he experienced as a player.

The Northern Echo:

The former England Under-21s international said: “We all strive for more, people say ‘no regrets’, but there will be regrets in certain areas. That is what you have to learn from.

“I know how hard I have trained every day in training. There were good and bad performances, everything that goes with being a pro footballer, the ups and downs, the injuries, the memorable results.

“All the stuff I have managed to do in my career I can learn from, and I can learn more from the bad stuff too. I am proud of what I have done.

“My career has set me up for the future – a future I am looking forward to.

“I will be going from being an old player to being one of the youngest coaches. I am happy with my playing career, although I’m sure I could have done better. I could have done worse as well.

“I will learn from those things and I want to make sure I am an even better coach/manager than I was a player.”