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Olympics have made Catts hungry for action
SUNDERLAND are happy to see the back of pre-season after a disappointing run of results and skipper Lee Cattermole admits the spotlight on the Olympics has whetted his appetite for the big occasion.
Much has been made nationally of a potential backlash towards football after the British public collectively got behind Team GB in their pursuit of glory at the Games over an incredible two weeks.
Cattermole was glued to the action, going through the emotions as 65 of the nation's athletes were rewarded for their application with medals to cherish for the rest of their lives.
A lot has already been made of the comparisons with professional football, where millionaires are made every year often without success because of the riches on offer in the Premier League and below.
Cattermole has been hooked on the Olympics and, as the build-up towards the top-flight opener with Arsenal this Saturday intensifies, he accepts the performances in London and elsewhere will have struck a chord with many other sportsmen.
"It's been strange to go through pre-season because there hasn't been much in the media about it, but we know we're starting very soon and that's got to be our focus," said Cattermole.
"It's not different for me, I can't wait, but all the attention's been on the Olympics and that's a nice change. It's been great, I've been watching as much as I can.
"It's been really inspirational. It's a positive example for us all to follow, anyone in sport must be motivated by what they have seen. How hard these athletes work and how much they care about what they do.
"I've had goose pimples watching it, my mum has been crying during the national anthem after we've won a gold medal. I think people sometimes forget how much people care about their sport.
"Footballers care as well. I sometimes think people don't realise that because they hear so much about off the pitch stuff, but we put a lot of effort in and always try to do our best."
Given the media attention on football and the players' behaviour, the nature of the sporting success stories to emerge from the Olympics has been particularly refreshing.
Now there is an air of inevitability that suggests the actions of highly-paid footballers will soon be back on the agenda.
But Cattermole said: "Football is the biggest sport in the world, it's the biggest sport in this country whether you like it or not. Of course sometimes we don't get the sort of results we'd like, both at club and international level, but that is sport.
"People are always comparing other sports to football and they are always trying to shoot it down with off the field stuff, but we're athletes as well. We work every day, ten months a year..... we're always in the limelight."
Given the tally of 29 gold medals for Team GB over the last fortnight, it is hard to believe that just a single gold was won at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Cattermole was just eight at the time and thinks coaching and training techniques have come a long way in every sport to ensure progress has been made.
"It's an unbelievable effort and shows you how far we've come in other sports. We're beating the best in the world, we finished above some big nations in the medal table and that's fantastic to see," he said.
"That shows you what can happen if you put the right focus on a sport at grassroots level. We're starting to do that in football. They're starting younger and younger with the right sort of coaching.
"I went to watch Sunderland's Under-14s the other day and they were out on the pitch before the game putting themselves through little drills, warming up, passing the ball around in little groups.
"There is no way I would have been doing that at their age, I'd have been pinging passes around all over the place, mucking around, not warming up properly. Things are changing for the better."
Cattermole has spent the last six weeks working his fitness back to the level he would expect to play week in and week out in the Premier League.
And when he leads Sunderland out at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon he is pretty sure that disappointing pre-season results will count for little.
"It's been good, an enjoyable pre-season to be honest. We've played a lot of football and that's been good. Normally you get pelted with a load of running," he said.
"I don't really worry about results in pre-season, but it would have been nice to go into the season having won a few games. I wouldn't read too much into it."
But he is keen to avoid predicting too much this season, although admits forming a reputation as a top ten team has to be high on Sunderland's agenda.
The 24-year-old said: "We're always talking about top ten, pushing for Europe, but I don't really want to think about it. I want to concentrate on getting a good start and not get sucked into predicting what we can achieve.
"If we start well, we can push on into the top half of the table and see where we can go from there. The club has progressed into a top Premier League team, it's done really well in that respect.
"When I first came here it was up one season and down the next. We're established now, we just need to try and move on from that."