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O'Neill keen to keep Cattermole on Wearside
MARTIN O'NEILL admits he wants Lee Cattermole to commit his long term future to Sunderland after entering the final 12 months of his existing deal.
O'Neill is well aware that his captain will have become a free agent at this time next year unless he can be persuaded to sign new terms in the weeks ahead.
The Sunderland boss thinks Cattermole proved himself last season by turning in a string of man-of-the-match displays after the manager who signed him twice, Steve Bruce, had been sacked in late November.
And O'Neill is keen to ensure the Stockton-born midfielder remains a pivotal part of his team next season, knowing Sunderland could be forced to listen to offers if Cattermole does not agree an extension to his contract.
"My own particular view is that he's got a year left to run - he's in the position where, in many aspects, he's in a driving position," said O'Neill.
"I'd want to keep him at the football club, I've said that to him. I'm hoping that we would start some negotiations in the very near future.
"People asked about his discipline, which is something I think you'd want to improve on this year. You think you have got it all sorted out and then you walk to the dressing room after the Newcastle game to find your captain's been sent off. Then you think 'there we go'.
"My own view is that despite the trials and tribulations of a few off the field problems, I think Lee's done very well under me. My personal view is that I want him to stay and I'd like us to get a contract sorted that would keep him here."
Cattermole was a £6m buy from Wigan Athletic three years ago when Bruce moved swiftly after his appointment to take him back to the region.
The former Middlesbrough man ended the season struggling to shake off knee and ankle problems, but with rest over the summer he has returned to pre-season training in good shape.
Cattermole has been outstanding for O'Neill, but his contract situation has created uncertainty about his future, having been linked with clubs like Liverpool in the past.
As well as aiming to tie his skipper down to new terms, the Sunderland manager is also on the look out for further additions to his squad.
So far he has only been able to bring in defender Carlos Cuellar after his contract at Aston Villa expired, while he remains in the market for a creative spark in midfield and a targetman.
But O'Neill is not expecting significant progress to be made until after the week-long trip to South Korea. They fly out on Monday ahead of playing in the Peace Cup next weekend.
"I think we've got a number of really good players at the football club. I think that they are also young enough to improve - and to improve their game," he said.
"I think there is also a case here to feel that if we can get a couple of players who will help improve the squad - which is very important - I think that's worth looking for.
"Whether we end up getting the players we want to get is another issue but it doesn't stop you from trying. The owner, who I've spoken to a number of times and met up with over the summer, is very receptive. He wants to see the team improve and I think he's become a genuine fan.
Every one of us wants us to try and push on and really improve. What does that mean? From 13/14th to 12th? I'm not sure about that - you want to push on.
"I'm full of optimism at this moment but it's my best time of optimism because there's no games. I love pre-season and the travelling and the trips. I love pre-season from that view point but once it gets closer to the start of the season, I start to think We're getting closer."