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Cattermole returns to work raring to go
MARTIN O'NEILL will lead Sunderland through a first day of pre-season training today and skipper Lee Cattermole thinks it's going to be a big year for his manager.
This is O'Neill's first summer in charge after taking over from Steve Bruce last December and is keen to make his mark on the Black Cats squad.
Only free agent Carlos Cuellar has been added to the squad so far, but the former Aston Villa boss is busy working on things behind the scenes to make further additions.
Adding a couple of players capable of scoring plenty goals is a priority for O'Neill, with the likes of Wolves' Steven Fletcher and Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor two of those to have been linked.
But he is also looking at the midfield area, with Ajax's Vurnon Anita and Spartak Moscow's Aiden McGeady among those to have been considered.
Cattermole has no idea about which new players will be coming in before the start of the season.
But the Sunderland captain is confident O'Neill, who turned the team's performance around last season, will make the right changes to make the squad stronger.
“This season is Martin's main season,” said Cattermole. “He has had time to prepare for the summer, I'm sure he will bring some more players in.
“He will really want to stamp his authority on the side and it's a really exciting year. Hopefully it will go well – I'm sure it will.”
Cuellar, 30, arrives at the Stadium of Light on the back of a satisfying spell at Villa Park, where O'Neill actually took him from Rangers for £8m three years ago.
And Cattermole said: “Carlos has been a great player over the years in the Premier League. It will be good to have him on board. It shows what Martin thinks of him to sign him again.
“It's a great time of the year, when you get new faces and there's a fresh approach to everything. Everyone is fresh. We are all just looking forward to the new season.”
Cattermole is fit for the first day of fitness tests at the Academy of Light after making the most of his break.
The former Middlesbrough and Wigan midfielder missed the last game of last season with Manchester United due to an ankle probem. He had also been struggling with knee trouble before that.
“I finished with the ankle problem after fighting my knee injury for a couple of months, but I am fine now,” he said. “It was just rest that was required for both, not an operation. I did miss that Man United game, but I'm ready for the new season. It's all exciting, I can't wait.
“It's been good to have the time off, to rest up. It's been longer than I would have liked.
“It got to a point where I was looking forward to getting back in to it. Back on Wednesday, looking forward to seeing the lads again. Sure they will get in and have a few stories to tell, it's always exciting and a good time.”
* Cattermole and Sunderland team-mate Phil Bardsley were at Close House Golf Club yesterday to play in a charity golf day.
North-East entrepreneur Graham Wylie hosted the Have a Heart day, when world-class golfer Lee Westwood arrived in a helicopter to raise funds for the Children's Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.