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O'Neill rues 'senseless' Cattermole red

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill has criticised club captain Lee Cattermole following his latest red card incident.

O'Neill branded Cattermole's challenge, which saw him collect the fifth red card of his Sunderland career, as "senseless" and "reckless"- with O'Neill urging Cattermole to set a better example to his team-mates.

"It was senseless and needless and didn't give the referee much option in fairness," O'Neill told the Sunderland Echo. "I'm told that he's got five red cards here at Sunderland and seven in his career and, with him still being only 24, I think it's something he needs to look at.

"He's the captain of the side and, as a manager, you talk about the importance of discipline to players before the game and it is important your captain demonstrates that discipline. So it really is something he has to look at afresh. I've only seen a replay of the incident very, very briefly, but it looked to me as though he left the referee with no choice."

Despite O'Neill's anger at the challenge, he confirmed that Cattermole will not be stripped of the armband, but did concede that the former Middlesbrough and Wigan player has issues he needs to address.

"The bottom line is you have to help yourself. As a player, you have to instil it within yourself how you're going to go on," O'Neill said. "In incidents in games, the referee generally has only one quick look at it and, if you're going to lunge in with your feet, you're going to get sent off. That's something he has to address.

"I wouldn't say he's at the crossroads of his career or anything like that, and I'm not searching around for a new captain. But it's bad enough with the sending off, bad enough the consequences of it with him missing games. And the sad thing is that he'd got off to a very good start but now he's missing three games and you just can't afford it."

Meanwhile Sunderland's Craig Gardner has insisted that his teammates are rallying round Cattermole following his dismissal - as well as admitting to feeling sympathetic towards his captain's situation.

"I feel sorry for Catts because he's been brilliant all season. His attitude in training and on the pitch is spot on. He's a true leader and I just feel sorry for him," Gardner said. "He's the last person in the world who wants to get sent off.

"He was rock bottom in the dressing room afterwards and everyone was trying to pick him up. Hopefully we'll get him back in the team. From where I was standing at right-back, it didn't look too bad. But I could be wrong. He was the other side of the pitch. We've got to get behind him and lift him up."

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