Adam Johnson says Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole is an inspirational leader.
Johnson said Cattermole was "hot-headed" when he played alongside him as a teenager in the Middlesbrough academy but that the midfielder is now a fine leader.
"From the age of 15, Lee was one of those players who was hot-headed and got the lads in his own team going," Johnson told The Journal. "As a young lad he was probably even crazier than he is now.
"On the pitch, when he was young, he was just so enthusiastic and would go into all sorts of tackles. Now, and especially this season, we have all seen a different side to his game.
"He gets a lot of bad press for getting sent off a lot and some other things, but if you look at his game, when he does play, he is massive for the team. It's not just about getting the players going - he can play. He passes it and he gets on the ball all the time.
"Since I have come to the club, I have seen a massive difference to the guy I played with in the Boro Under-21s. Lee has matured and is worthy of being a captain because he's a great leader."
Cattermole missed the defeat to Everton at the weekend with a knee injury picked up in training, but scans have shown no ligament damage and he is rated 50-50 for the trip to Fulham on Sunday.
Johnson added: "You always want your captain in the team. Any team would miss their captain and, looking back to the Everton game, if we'd had Lee in the team for those last 15 minutes then maybe we would have won."