I’m afraid I must write this with a heavy heart. I must admit to feeling quite down since the list of released players was announced by the club. I’m a very optimistic and positive person, I feel an immeasurable sense of hope about the club’s direction at the moment and lament the witch-hunt of Lee Johnson by many so-called ‘fans’.
The reason for my upset can be accounted to two words in particular: ‘Grant’ and ‘Leadbitter’.
I’m 26 and was born and raised in Dublin to a Mackem father, raised to support Sunderland.
I’ve made the trip for countless home and away games, I remember singing my heart out at the SoL in the 93rd minute while 4-0 down to Aston Villa in 2015. My Dad never put pressure on me to do anything in life, but I knew from early on that I didn’t have a choice in the matter of what football club I supported. We bleed red and white in my house.
I remember watching Grant breakthrough under McCarthy and my dad saying ’watch this kid’. I remember when Roy Keane (an absolute hero on this side of the Irish sea) took him under his wing, so it seems strange to me writing this now that he’s now retiring.
He was my favourite player. It broke my heart when he left, though I of course understood why and I feel no shame in saying I shed a few tears when he came back to the club.
I don’t believe there are many people who are unaware of what a servant the man has been to our magnificent club nor how much he loves the club. I think there should be a testimonial held for him at the Sol and give him the chance to wear the shirt one last time and give us fans one last chance to see a captain’s armband around his arm. If anyone deserves a testimonial, it’s Grant Leadbitter. I’d be the first to buy a ticket and my flight would be booked on the spot.
I’d advocate for a statue to be built, but I’ll settle for a testimonial.
If anyone ever got what this beautiful club was all about it was him, and he deserves it.