Lee Cattermole plays down his Sunderland absences
Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole believes too much has been made of his absences from the first team in their Premier League campaign.
The 23-year-old was left out of last month's 4-0 home win against Stoke and the 2-1 loss at Norwich but did start in the other five league games.
"There was a fuss made over it," Cattermole told BBC Newcastle.
"The gaffer [Steve Bruce] probably changes three players every game, but soon as it was me it was a big issue."
Cattermole added: "It was highlighted everywhere. But he told me the reasons, asked me if I wanted protecting in the papers, but I said I didn't want anything.
"I just said: 'Tell them about my form, why you've left me out of the team and I'll bounce back', I'll come back from it."
Lasts season's injuries to Cattermole and David Meyler, coupled with a lack of goals from midfield, lead to the arrival of Craig Gardner, Sebastian Larsson and David Vaughan this summer to strengthen Sunderland's options in the middle.
Of the current squad, only Larsson has featured in every league game so far with Cattermole, Gardner, Vaughan, Kieran Richardson, Ahmed Elmohamady and Jack Colback all switching places in Bruce's line-up.
"It's tough, but the gaffer has been out and brought a few midfielders into the team, and rightly so. We needed more stength in depth," Cattermole continued.
"If I'm not pulling trees up - it's up to me to work hard. I feel like I'm in better shape now. I've worked hard the last few weeks and I'm fully focused and confident we're going to have a good season."
BBC Newcastle has full commentary of every Sunderland game home and away, as well as debate, interviews and reaction on Total Sport weekdays from 17:30 BST.