LEE CATTERMOLE has revealed how ‘that school trial’ feeling is on the Sunderland training ground ahead of a date with Newcastle United which could go a long way to determining the Wearside club’s Premier League future.

The Black Cats might have dropped in to the relegation zone before a ball has been kicked against the Magpies on Sunday afternoon if results go against them over the Easter weekend.

It will be the first, and possibly last, Wear-Tyne derby that Dick Advocaat leads Sunderland in to but the experienced head coach has brought a different approach to the training ground environment over the last few weeks.

Advocaat is only one match in to the nine-match contract he agreed when he succeeded Gus Poyet and, despite the respect there was for his predecessor, Cattermole admits there is an extra edge to training following the new man’s appointment.

And with the visit of Newcastle on the horizon, it is hoped the correct attitudes at the Academy of Light will rub off on the players’ performances when they walk out on to the pitch in front of a passionate derby crowd on Sunday.

“It’s like being back at school trials, where you try to impress the new manager,” said Cattermole. “That’s the way it works, rightly or wrongly.

“Personally, I think it is down to a player to train hard every day whether it is in front of a manager who has been here one week, one year or two years. You want to do that for yourself.

“But we have to do better as a group. It’s been how many managers over the last few years here? We need to do better as a group and as a club we need the right players.”

He added: “The gaffer has come in and been great. Everyone is buying in to it. We didn’t quite get the result at West Ham, but he has got a lift out of the players. He has done well.

“Everyone has a clean slate because standards in training rise a bit because it’s a new manager. He is focused on the team and trying to get the team attitude right. He says it’s nine cup finals and we’re down to eight.”

Cattermole became a key player under Poyet, well-suited to the holding midfield role where he was asked to break things up and bring others in to play. Despite the admiration there is for him among the fans, he is not sure whether Advocaat will be turning to him quite as much.

The Stockton-born midfielder, who missed the West Ham defeat through suspension, said: “The manager is different to Gus but he is firm, strict and we want to follow what he says.

“He has a sense of humour. He will say something and you think he was having a go but then he will smile. He is very experienced and we just have to follow him in what he wants to do.

“He will not come here with what he has done in the game if he didn’t care whether we stay up or not. He is putting his record on the line by managing here for the first time.

“He has been very firm with the team straight away. He is involved in every session. I have been impressed, just like I was with Gus as well. We have to see how he sets the team up. We all have to try to get in the team. He might improve me even more. You just have to focus even more.”

Defeat to Newcastle could have a serious effect on the remainder of Sunderland’s season. Given that they are hovering perilously close to the bottom three, it is obvious that they could do with a lift going in to the final five weeks of the campaign.

Cattermole, knowing that defender Wes Brown could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, said: “It’s a massive game. If we can win on Sunday then it will set us up, it will get the fans onside and we can finish the season on a high. It’s a tough league and we have to keep fighting.

“Sometimes we have been a bit negative and now it’s about getting the points and securing our place in the Premier League. We have been in it last year, we are in it this year, so we know that we need to do something to get out of it. We need a big push.”