Sunderland have completed their second signing of the January transfer window as former Academy product (and massive Lads fan) Grant Leadbitter put pen to paper on a two-and-a-half year deal that will see him link back up with his boyhood club following six and a half years with our Teesside neighbours Middlesbrough.
The central midfielder has only appeared in two league games for Tony Pulis’ side this term and, despite interest from the Championship, Leadbitter made it clear last week that the only club he wanted to join was Jack Ross’ Sunderland - and he has even taken a significant pay-cut to do so, such was his desire to return to the Stadium of Light.
Leadbitter, 33, appeared for the Lads 111 times, helping the club to promotion in 2007, before moving onto Ipswich Town with Carlos Edwards back in 2009 for a fee of £2.6m.
A successful spell in East Anglia saw the former England-U21 international return to the North East with Middlesbrough, as Tony Mowbray swooped for him on a Bosman free transfer in 2012.
Highly thought of on Teesside, Leadbitter scored 28 goals over the course of his time there and although he had no desire to leave, the emotional pull of a return home was too much to turn down.
Middlesbrough fan Jimmy Lees believes that Leadbitter is actually better than Tony Pulis’ favoured central pair of Adam Clayton and Mo Besic, so in stepping down the Fencehouses native won’t be anything other than a success on Wearside:
You can not deny that he loves Sunderland.
This is a move that will keep the fire burning inside him, which is a huge part of his game.
If he moved on to another championship club, it would have been to just play football. The fact that he is going to his boyhood club to fight for promotion will excite him which means you will see the best Grant Leadbitter.
Running games, scoring goals and making your team a success.
(Grant has been) my favourite player by far over the last ten years.
I have felt proud when calling him my club’s captain. Middlesbrough Football Club are better for having Grant Leadbitter, hopefully, he is better for having Middlesbrough Football Club. I hope he is a huge part of building his hometown club in becoming the force it should be.