Cattermole shrugs off Cats drop fears
The Black Cats headed into the weekend sitting just three points clear of the Premier League drop zone and knowing their plight could have worsened by the time they run out to face Fulham at the Stadium of Light on Sunday. However, the vagaries of the fixture list mean Bolton, Manchester City and Birmingham will follow Roy Hodgson's men to Wearside before Sunderland head out on to the road again, and that run of games could have a significant say in the outcome of a troubled campaign. A season which began with such promise has dwindled away to the point where a sequence of 13 league matches without a win has prompted talk of a fight against relegation, and an overdue turn-around cannot come quickly enough. Asked about the "R-word", 21-year-old midfielder Cattermole said: "People do mention it, but I don't like to talk about it. "We know the position we are in. We were on a bit of a bad run, but we stopped it with three games unbeaten and it's not too bad. "I think those three points will prove to be massive towards the end of the season. "Once you put a couple of wins together, people start talking about Europe. It's ridiculous how quickly things can change. "We have just got to keep doing things well during the week on the training pitch and take them into the game on a Saturday." Steve Bruce's men had indeed stemmed the tide of defeats with successive draws against Stoke, Wigan and Portsmouth before Arsenal gained revenge for their defeat in the north-east in November with a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium last weekend. However, they had targeted a much healthier return from those games and have collected just six of the last 39 points on offer. Cattermole, who missed the game at Arsenal through suspension but is available again tomorrow, said: "We went three games unbeaten and we could have come out of them with nine points, we could have come out with seven. "We were unlucky at times, we didn't quite get the rub of the green in the penalty area and little penalty decisions. "We just need a little bit more quality. We are a bit harder to beat, we have got a better shape, we are not conceding many goals and if we can just find that little bit of quality in the final third, that will see us pick up some wins." Sunderland's slump has coincided with a dreadful run of luck on the injury and suspension fronts, and Bruce is hoping the return of the likes of Cattermole, defender John Mensah and midfielder Kieran Richardson can make a real difference. Cattermole for one is certain there is enough within the dressing room to solve the problem before it gets out of hand. He said: "We have got too much quality down there not to win. I didn't see the game at Arsenal, but I heard the effort was there and the commitment. "Before the Arsenal game, we had only conceded two in three games and that's better than it was. "We have pretty much a full squad now, barring Andy Reid and Jordan [Henderson]. The squad is looking much stronger and I know the lads are fully behind the manager and everyone is pulling in the same direction. "I am sure you will see points coming back on the board. We are still looking to finish in the top half rather than the bottom. "I know the run has been pretty bad, but you can't keep looking down. We have got to start looking upwards."