Jason McAteer will lead Sunderland into their Division One campaign after being handed the captain's armband by manager Mick McCarthy. McAteer was today left out of the Republic of Ireland squad to play Australia in a friendly on August 19.

The 32-year-old midfielder succeeds Michael Gray as Black Cats captain. The vacancy has arisen because Gray, like Kevin Phillips and Thomas Sorensen, is not expected to be at the club for very much longer.

“I'm thick, the lads reckoned,” McAteer said with a smile today. “I'm the lad who, when I was asked about a pizza, 'Do you want it cut into four or eight slices?' I said four because I'd never eat eight.

“But you grow up and situations make you realise and make you become more responsible. Around this place, I've had to become responsible.

“At the end of the day, I class Mick McCarthy as a friend as well, and I want to see him succeed, and if I can help him in any way, then if he gives me the armband and sees me being that responsible person, then that's the person I'll be for him,” McAteer added.