With the dawning of a new week, we can for the first time this season reflect on a weekend in which Sunderland recorded a victory. It was a hard fought three points against a side who will be there or there about come May, and within a handful of impressive performance was one from our new captain.
Grant Leadbitter hadn’t featured a great deal before the 2-1 victory against Portsmouth, despite being made club captain after the departure of George Honeyman to Hull. Recalled from being an unused substitute in the 1-1 draw at Ipswich Town, Leadbitter lined up alongside Max Power as one half of a defensive midfield duo.
Despite a rocky start, he led his side to victory and put in a real captain’s performance.
His display was one which we have been sorely lacking. Our last captain put in similar passionate performances before deciding to ply his trade on the banks of the Humber, but Leadbitter brings this plus the experience and savvy gained through playing over 500 times in the professional game.
His level-headed approach combined with calmness on the ball and the odd tough tackle makes him ideal captain material, especially in a division as unrelenting as League One.
Leadbitter was a class act on Saturday. He held things together in the midfield nicely and, other than the almost brilliant own goal in the second half, he put in a faultless display.
There is no shock intended in these positive words - after all, we knew what to expect when Ross re-signed the man from Chester-Le-Street at the start of the year. 120+ appearances in his first spell on Wearside after breaking into the first team under the tenure of Mick McCarthy in that horrific 2005-06 season made him a firm favourite on Wearside.
Bringing Leadbitter back to the club was always going to be a bonus; to have him in the side as captain with his wealth of experience can only be of benefit. His first game as captain would have been a welcome sight to most onlooking supporters.
Grant mightn’t be the most flamboyant midfielder, but we don’t need him to be. His ability to win the ball back in dangerous areas allows us to keep possession longer and prevent the opposition from running the midfield.
Along with Power on Saturday, Leadbitter got stuck into his opposite numbers by breaking up play and getting his side on the front foot quickly. His punchy attitude and character are welcoming with the departure of Lee Cattermole, but what is even more refreshing is having a central midfield player capable of dispossessing an opponent and initiating an attack rather than backing off and shying away from a challenge. The latter is something which has been all too familiar during the slide down the divisions on Wearside.
It’s early days for the Leadbitter captaincy, but the initial signs look good. He won’t play every match, but to have a player of his experience and know-how around the dressing room and on the training pitch each day is a key quality in every successful footballing side.
Let’s hope he can help plot our way to his second promotion as a Sunderland player.