30/10/2013 10:55 GMT | Updated 29/12/2013 05:12 GMT

The Resurrection of Catts

Chase ball. Win ball. Give ball.

Perhaps that's saying too much.

Run. Tackle. Pass.

Descriptions of Lee Cattermole's game need not be complex, because his game is not complex. That is not a criticism, quite the opposite in fact.

Of all the players Paolo Di Canio decided to make an example of, Cattermole was the most inexplicable. Of all the poor decisions he made, this was the worst. Of all the dissenting voices in the dressing room, the midfielder's was one of the most listened to.

The Italian was quick to tar the former skipper with the same brush as Phil Bardsley, yet his performances - certainly after, but also before - paint a rather different picture.

Kevin Ball, a man to whom it is easy to compare the Teessider - and the two clearly share a mutual respect - brought him back into the fold against Manchester United: he's arguably been the club's best, certainly most consistent, performer since.

Football fans can be quite close-minded regarding their opinion of a player; once they've formulated one, it's often to unlikely to change. Nowhere is this more evident than with Lee Cattermole.

He is thought of as a dirty player, an old-school, tough tackling 'thug' who belongs in the 1970s and is simply a red card waiting to happen. His card is often marked before he's stepped over the white line.

It's true there is something of the old-school about him: he is by no means flashy, on or off-the-pitch; he's one of the few players in the league to wear black boots - yes, they still make them - and he seems to enjoy nothing more than walking his dogs. He does also enjoy tackling, but he's by no means dirty, getting the ball far more often than the player.

Another misconception is his inability to pass. While he may not get into the Swansea side, much less Barcelona, he's hardly giving the ball away every time it leaves his tightly-laced, mud-splattered, unfashionable black boot. He may not hit Hollywood passes, but it's not exactly B-movie stuff either, as he has grown increasingly adept at linking defence to attack, and switching play to the flanks.

It is Martin O'Neill, for me, who deserves a huge amount of credit in Cattermole's emergence as an important figure at the club. Prior to his arrival, many of the aforementioned criticisms were difficult to argue with, but under the Irishman he matured considerably.

He has been unlucky to suffer so many injuries - and, admittedly, a fair few suspensions - which means that he hasn't featured as much as he would've liked in his time at the club, and that also contributed to John O'Shea taking over captaincy duties on a full-time basis.

Even without the armband, though, it is clear he is a natural leader, and commands the respect of his fellow footballers. Aged just 25, he has captained every club he's been at. Those leadership qualities should have been recognised by Di Canio, and if they had then he may have won round more of the players to his way of thinking.

Instead, he was told he wasn't wanted, and the former Swindon boss did his best to force him out of the club. It's a testament to Cattermole that he stayed and fought for his place - when many a side would surely welcome the bite he adds to midfield -, ultimately winning it back under Ball, and did not make anything public until Di Canio was quite a while removed from Wearside.

Gus Poyet has recognised the same qualities Ball did, and has wisely kept him in the side, and reaped rewards with another impressive display in the 2-1 win over Newcastle, while he was the only player who showed any heart in the second half of the 4-0 defeat to Swansea.

His is not a game that can be analysed and backed-up easily by statistics, while he isn't going to be scoring 30-yard screamers - or any goals at all, for that matter - but he's an integral part of the side.

He's lost the armband, he's lost his shirt number (he was demoted from 6 to 33 by Di Canio) and he lost his place. He's regained the latter, you wouldn't bet against him getting the other two back in the future.

Now, if there were only something we could do about that bloody 'LEE LEE LEE...Cattermoooooole' chant...