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Football: Skipper's displays command respect.

DAMIEN Johnson's stock is not as high as it should be because he is taken for granted.

That's the view of manager Steve Bruce about his captain, who has come in for criticism from fans this season.

Johnson did himself no favours when he tossed away the armband and then threw off his shirt after a misunderstanding in August, when ironic cheers and boos rained down from the stand as he was substituted.

Fans were actually having a go at Bruce for not sending on a striker, Mikael Forssell, ahead of midfielder Neil Danns as they were chasing a winner against Crystal Palace.

Bruce is resolute in his belief that Johnson should be one of the first names on his teamsheet - and jokes that, no, they are not related, mindful of the 'son of' jibes that have done the rounds.

"I am delighted the way he is playing at the moment," said Bruce. "At Norwich he was easily our best player, at West Brom he was arguably as good as we had on the pitch.

"Jonty's one of those who fit into that category of familiarity breeding contempt.

"He's been here five years now and what he gives us, week in, week out, has probably been taken for granted.

"Any manager would want him in their team."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Mar 27, 2007
Words:217
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