Grant Leadbitter returned to Sunderland in January after a ten-year absence. The experienced midfielder, a Sunderland supporter, left the club originally in 2009. Now, back on Wearside, his influence on and off the pitch is beginning to prove invaluable. The Black Cats are in search of automatic promotion, and Leadbitter is proving to be an excellent piece of business.
Grant Leadbitter: An Excellent Signing for the Black Cats
Return to the Club He Loves
Lifelong Sunderland supporter Leadbitter left the club in 2009. He played over 100 games for the Black Cats before moving on. He went onto to play for Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough. His seven years on Teesside resulted in over 200 games where he became a fan favourite.
However, during the first part of this season, he found himself as a bit part player. Still, he had no real desire to leave Boro until Sunderland came calling. He admitted that the only team he would leave for would be his boyhood club. “When you’re a born-and-bred Sunderland fan and there’s an opportunity to come back to the football club, well, I was never going to say no I can tell you that.”
Partnership With Cattermole Developing
Since arriving back, Leadbitter has built up a partnership with Lee Cattermole. The experienced midfield duo are becoming the heartbeat of the team. Sunderland were struggling to win games, but not losing. Since the two have been paired together, two consecutive wins have seen the Black Cats close the gap at the top of League One. It is early days, but their partnership could prove to be the main ingredient to success this season.
Influence On and Off the Pitch
His quality on the ball, leadership skills and calm head make the game easier for others. Leadbitter’s ability to protect the defence along with Cattermole has made a big impact on others.
“The experience they’ve got is massive and they only help out us behind them,” said defender Reece James. “Their talking is massive for us and the protection they give us, either in the air or on the floor, is great. It’s just as good when they are on the ball because they’re so composed, they take the pressure right off. They take the sting out of the game.”
Manager Jack Ross has also hailed his new signing, saying his influence off the pitch has been just as important as on it. The 33-year-old is desperate to be successful at the club. This attitude spreads across the squad and helps it to become part of the club’s culture.
Impressing Staff, Fans and Teammates
It is no understatement to say that Leadbitter has hit the ground running at Sunderland. He has made a huge difference. Not only has his influence and general play impressed but he has cured one problem, a problem that has hampered Sunderland all season: set-pieces rarely resulted in goals during the first half of the season. During the last five games, ten goals have been scored. Half of those came from corners taken by Leadbitter. Before this, just two were scored in the previous 28 games.