Having missed the majority of last season through injury, midfielder Lee Cattermole is keen to make up for lost time.
The 29-year-old’s welcome return to action as his fully-fit self was surely a joy to behold for his team-mates and fans alike this summer.
Lee, it’s great to see you back in the thick of the action, how’s life under the new gaffer?
LC: “It’s been good. Everything he’s brought to the club so far is exactly what we’ve needed. He’s a great fit for the job and the club and, hopefully, that will continue. It’s been refreshing and that’s what he asks for in his team and in his players as a standard level. That suits me down to the ground. That’s how I’ve made my career; on my effort and work-rate and on my honesty to go and do my best. If we can get that from the group it will be amazing how far we can go.”
Players will look up to you as one of our longest-serving players, how do you handle that?
LC: “I was captain when I was younger and I must have thought I was given it for a reason so I suppose I just carried on playing how I was. Now I’m a bit older I’m more comfortable in my role in that I can go out of my way to maybe help people. You understand a lot more of what comes with the job. We’ve got John (O’Shea) here who is a great help as well, in and around the dressing room, he’s quality. Between us we share the load quite a lot. It’s something I’ll do whether I’m wearing the armband or not.”
It’s not just on the grass where the lads may need help and guidance, though, is it?
LC: “Exactly. We’ve got a lot of new players here and they have to understand what the club’s about. The more we can get the lads understanding the club and what we think it stands for and how we have seen it be successful, it will only help. That’s part of being a captain and just helping the lads as best you can. If you lead by example that’s great because you are performing well. First and foremost, you’ve got to perform, there’s no point encouraging boys off the pitch then having a nightmare yourself! That’s one thing I’m trying to do at the minute.”
How have you changed as a player as your career has progressed?
LC: “You have to understand your body. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’ve had a lot of injuries so you start to become aware of what you need to do to maintain or improve your fitness, or give yourself the best possible chance of performing. That comes with experience and maturity, I’m a much better player now than what I was five years ago. Some might say I had more energy in me and I’m still enjoying it, which is great. I’m enjoying it more in the last seven or eight weeks than in the last couple of years in terms of how I’ve felt being out on the training pitch like wanting to stay out there and work on my game to improve. That comes down to being in good shape.”
Are you enjoying your football more now having missed a big chunk of last season through injury?
LC: “No one likes to miss games or training. I had a serious operation which is quite rare, really. For me to see the benefits from it – which I didn’t know would come – I haven’t had any pain or symptoms from the past, which is great. That’s where the buzz comes from. I’ve played for two or three years in the Premier League where I’ve been really struggling. I’m excited now to say, ‘let’s get five or 10 games in’ but I have to take it one game at a time and keep doing the stuff I did in the summer.”
Is there a difficult balancing act in being ambitious but also being realistic in terms of aim this season?
LC: “We’re talking already as a group that we haven’t played anywhere near as good as we know we’re capable of. It’s going to be a tough season and we have to take it a game at a time, keep our feet on the ground. There’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of games to come. We have to forget about our last game and move on. This league’s about just remembering what makes you a good team, which is your work-rate and commitment. Once you start getting ahead of yourself, especially dropping down, if you think you’re better than what you are, you’ll get punished. It’s the same in the Premier League if you win a game you think ‘we’re onto something here’, that’s when it can bite you.”