Malc Dugdale says...
While he scored numerous screamers throughout his career, Grant will always have a place in my heart due to his total and incomparable commitment to his clubs, and to Sunderland more than any, even at real times of personal challenge.
In May 2019, Grant lost his Mam after a hard-fought battle with cancer after he had already lost his Dad at the devastatingly young age of 50. Both these close family members were huge supporters of the club, and of the progress of Grant's career, travelling up and down the country to support their lad, and The Lads. They left Grant without his parents way too soon; an experience enough to emotionally cripple even the most hardened of hearts.
Despite all that, Grant put in yet another typical calm and controlled performance away at Fratton Park that key night in May, to help the lads reach the playoff final at Wembley. Though the result was a 0-0, the performance was immense, and impeccably orchestrated by Grant in the middle, with only the manager and captain Honeyman aware of his internal angst. At the end of the game, he kneeled on the pitch for what seemed like ten minutes. The eyes in the crowd he would have loved to see one final time weren’t there for him to seek out.
The sheer grit and determination required to do what he felt his parents would have wanted him to took the kind of deep-rooted passion and commitment that very few players in red and white (before or since) can even hold a candle to. In a world where an extra roll along the pitch after a kick in the shins can earn a vital yellow card, and maybe a free-kick that can win a game, he simply wasn’t about that. He was (and still is) made of the stuff we all aspire to be. The epitome of northern grit and guts, and a large portion of gratitude for everything we are lucky to have and experience.
Grant will forever be that bloke who gave his everything to help his club and his teammates. He ended up needing help with his state of mind post all that, and he has openly spoken about that journey too, to encourage others trying to deal with bereavement to cope better. Even at that darkest hour, he thinks of others.
Grant is quite simply the quintessential professional footballer, and it makes me proud that he is, and always will be, one of our own.
Enjoy your retirement bonny lad. We look forward to seeing you at the match very soon. You can take Grant out of Sunderland, but you can’t take Sunderland out of Grant.
Joseph Tulip says...
I remember Leadbitter making his debut as a substitute in the 4-2 home defeat to Huddersfield in the League Cup back in 2003. It was a horrible night with us bowing out against a side who were a division below us with a low crowd of less than 14,000.
But the introduction of a young Grant Leadbitter offered some hope for the future. Even then it seemed like he had been around for some time, catching the eye with performances at youth level for both Sunderland and England.
It wasn’t until the latter stages of Mick McCarthy’s tenure as manager when Grant began to feature more regularly, but I’ll always remember the day this lad we’d all been hearing about first made his senior debut. Of course, there have been many high profile moments since then.
Phil West says...
My defining memory of Grant Leadbitter’s Sunderland career is the goal he scored against Southampton on Easter Monday in 2007.
We went to Saint Mary’s with real momentum and belief as the promotion challenge picked up speed, but it was also a tricky test against a useful Saints team, and after falling behind and initially struggling to break them down, Carlos Edwards drew us level with a trademark long-range screamer.
As the game entered its final stages, it looked as though a point would be our reward, but Leadbitter had other ideas, when he slammed home the winner from distance. Game won, points secured, and promotion would eventually be achieved. A crucial goal in a crucial game from a player who really did live his dream in red and white.
Michael Dunne says...
Grant Leadbitter’s goal against Arsenal in Sunderland’s second season will be hard beaten for an abundance of reasons. Firstly, the sheer standard of the goal was absolutely immense. Leadbitter, a sub, picked the ball up outside the box and with the ball on the bounce, he struck it sweetly into the roof of the net. It was a trademark Leadbitter strike that Sunderland fans were getting used to. Sunderland, at this stage, had still failed to beat a big team in the Premier League and this goal appeared to be sending the team on their way.
This one was particularly poignant though as Grant pointed at the direction of where his late father’s ashes were scattered and an emotional Leadbitter collapsed to the ground on that spot in almost a dedication of the goal to his father. It was truly an unforgettable moment for himself I am sure and all Sunderland fans. It made everything so human. Not only will it go down as one of Leadbitter’s most memorable moments, but possibly in the Stadium of Light’s early history.
Martin Wanless says...
Maybe a slightly left-field one, but one of my favourite memories of Grant Leadbitter’s Sunderland career is his performance in the 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough early in our first season back in the Premier League under Roy Keane.
He scored the opening goal for us but more than that, he put in the type of display that showed we weren’t going to be bullied – we belonged here, and we were determined to stay.
His tenacity was Roy Keane-esque, and he demonstrated the drive and commitment that would be his hallmark wherever he went. His clash with Lee Cattermole was superb at the time. Cattermole was a horrible, scrappy opponent, and as a youngster at Boro was a loose cannon as well as being a mightily good player. Cattermole tried to dominate Leadbitter, and Grant more than stood up to the challenge. Of course, they ended up as teammates – and good friends – at Sunderland, but at the time Grant was standing up, proud of his club and his team, saying: we’ll not be messed with.