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The centre-back has expressed his belief that the Black Cats would have enjoyed a more successful season had they not been deprived of the 24-year-old's "will to win"

Sunderland defender Titus Bramble has underlined the importance of "influential" captain Lee Cattermole returning to action.

The Black Cats skipper has been restricted to making just 11 appearances so far this season after struggling with a recurring knee injury since November.

However, having gained fitness during a week-long training break in Dubai, the 24-year-old is expected to return imminently - news which Bramble believes is a huge boost.

"Lee's someone that we've really missed," he told reporters. "I look back at the recent Reading game where we lost, for example, when we should have won, and he would have been ideal for a match like that in terms of imposing himself on the game and giving us a platform.

"He's the captain and he can be a very influential player when he gets a run in the side. I've seen it at Wigan and I've seen it at Sunderland, and it's just one of those facts of football that if you take the captain out of any side it doesn't help you.

"He's been a big miss over the last few months because he's a leader with this great will to win. And when he gets himself in the groove and is really on his game he takes the whole team and the fans with him and gets everyone going.

"It's just a shame that this season he's had injuries which haven't really allowed him to contribute in the way he has done.

"But hopefully he'll be back soon to help us with the run in because if he can get back and get a run of games in towards the end of the season it is going to be a big, big help to us."

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