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Cattermole’s outlook is a massive boost for O’Neill
MARTIN O'NEILL expects Lee Cattermole to be still treading a fine line long into the future, but the Sunderland manager is desperate for his whole-hearted captain to stay on Wearside for years to come.
Cattermole has had problems curbing his over-exuberance in the tackle since breaking on to the scene as a teenager at Middlesbrough in 2005.
There have also been much-publicised off-the-field incidents to overcome for the tough-tackling Teessider, who remains a significant part of O'Neill's grand plan at the Stadium of Light.
It is ten months since O'Neill took over from Steve Bruce and it would have been easy to disregard a player very much a part of the old regime.
Instead, Cattermole has played some of his best football at Sunderland under his latest manager and the intention is very much to persuade the 24-year-old to stay with the club - even if he is not expecting a character change from the midfielder.
"Cattermole will not have grown up when he is 40," said O'Neill. "He might like my acerbic wit, but that has not stopped him from being suspended â€¦
"Will he change a great deal? Unfortunately not. But I like Cattermole, I do like him. He might be a better golfer than he is a footballer!
"But I do like him.
"I have kept him as my skipper, I need my head examined, I don't know why! He has done fine. The one thing about Lee, he wants to play everybody's shot for them. He wants to do everything.
"He wants to take the ball off the back four, join in everything. He needs to temper a few things and has done really well for me. Actually, deep down, he is a decent lad. Doesn't always show it. He really is a decent lad."
Cattermole has 12 months remaining on the contract he signed when he moved from Wigan for £6m a little more than three years ago.
But O'Neill is desperate to convince him to stay, so will be asking the club's owner, Ellis Short, to do his utmost to ensure he does not walk away as a free agent next summer.
"I would like him to stay, I have never wavered from that," said O'Neill. "He is in his final year of his contract and is in a decent bargaining position.
"He did well in the games he played last season, he missed as many as he played through one reason or another, generally suspension.
"But overall I am generally pleased with him. I would like him to stay. I'm hoping he feels the same. I can't have this conversation with the player every single day. I hope he is made an offer that he wants to stay. At some stage I hope he is made an offer where he wants to stay."
How O'Neill dealt with Cattermole and the rest of the Sunderland squad behind-the-scenes would make an interesting television show - but that is not something he will be rushing into.
After Liverpool have played an emotionally charged game with Sunderland this evening, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will appear in a six-part fly-on-the-wall documentary to be aired in the United States on Monday and on Five in the UK next week.
It will shed light on his methods, including a moment when his players can barely contain their laughter as they took part in a meditation and relaxation class to help them deal with the stresses of club football.
Rodgers plays a significant part in the series, a commercial brainchild of the club's owners, and is reminiscent of the five-part Premier Passions documentary Peter Reid took part in during his days as Sunderland manager between 1996-97.
O'Neill, though, prefers to enjoy watching others and will not be rushing in to such a programme himself. He said: "The short answer is, no. I love watching them as long as it is not me.
"I liked Peter Reid's one, the one at Leyton Orient a couple of years ago, where the manager went ballistic, loved it.
"The best one I had ever seen was the final days of Malcolm Allison and Manchester City.
"I wouldn't want to myself. I couldn't deal with Phil Neal in the Graham Taylor documentary, or any of my cohorts saying 'yes boss, no boss'. Wally (Steve Walford) wouldn't be up for that either."
Rodgers, intent on changing the style and outlook of the way Liverpool play, has hardly made the best of starts to life at Anfield. The Reds sit third from bottom after three matches.
Sunderland, who have picked up two draws from their opening Premier League matches and will play their first home league game of the season, looking for their first win.
O'Neill said: "It's rather strange to have a first home game in September, losing the pitch to a water-logged pitch in August, it's a great fixture for us. It will be emotional and highly charged because of what has happened through the week with Hillsborough. Playing Liverpool will be a big game for us."