Last Updated: Sat, 17 Nov 2012 13:41
Winger Adam Johnson has backed old friend Lee Cattermole in his role as Sunderland captain - saying he has calmed down.
Cattermole's disciplinary record - his red card in the Capital One Cup at MK Dons on September 25 was the seventh of his senior career - has led to speculation that his days as skipper could be numbered. However, manager Martin O'Neill, for the time being at least, is prepared to stick with the 24-year-old, who is fighting a race against time to be fit for Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to Fulham having sat out last weekend's loss at Everton with a knee injury.
Johnson has known Cattermole a good deal longer than the Ulsterman after the pair emerged through the ranks at Middlesbrough, and insists he has seen a marked change in the midfield enforcer since his summer arrival at the Stadium of Light.
Johnson, 25, said with a smile: "He was always once of those players since we were about 15, to be honest. He was always hot-headed and got the lads going. As a young lad, he was probably even crazier than he is now on the pitch.
"But that was because he was young, he was so enthusiastic and he went in for tackles. But now, and especially this season, you have really seen a different side to his game. I know he gets a lot of bad press for being sent off a lot, but if you watch him when he actually is playing, he's a massive help to the team.
"It's not just all about getting the team going, he can play. He passes it, he is always looking to get on the ball.This season since I came in, I have seen a massive difference from when I used to know him. I know I have played with him in the [England] Under-21s, but he has matured loads now and he's definitely worthy of the captaincy because he is a great leader."
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