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Given the presence of Adam Clayton and Adam Forshaw as well as the arrival of Jonny Howson, Middlesbrough would appear to have less and less need for 31-year-old midfielder Grant Leadbitter.
Leadbitter was born in Chester-le-Street and is a former Sunderland player who has now been linked with a return to Wearside. A move up the A19 looks like a deal which could work for all parties; Boro needing to get rid a player from their books who only made 17 appearances for them last year while Sunderland need to add some quality to the squad.
For the player, at this age, there is little point in him sitting on the sidelines or being rather demeaned by playing under-23 football. So a move back to his first professional club seems very wise indeed.
In terms of numbers, Sunderland seem reasonably well-off in central midfield positions. Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole, Didier Ndong and Darron Gibson can all play here but a closer look makes for bleak reading. Gibson and Cattermole are both 29 and while that is not old for a footballer, neither look at their peak frankly.
Rodwell is someone whose career has taken a dramatic downturn over the years and that malaise seems to show no signs of abating. That leaves them with Ndong, who is a saleable asset and someone who as yet may not be at the club beyond the end of August.
Sunderland therefore need someone who knows the Championship well, knows Sunderland and has good quality. Step forward Grant Leadbitter. Between his two north-east clubs as well as Ipswich Town, Leadbitter has played over 320 games at this level and always with admirable quality.
He has never been down as far as League One is concerned and never looked like being, though conversely, he has only managed 78 games in the Premier League, most of which were for a struggling Sunderland side. It would appear then that the Championship is ‘his level’ and he would be the person to ensure the Wearsiders do not lack the right type of qualities which are crucial in this division.
On paper, Sunderland still have some good players for this level but frankly, there is nothing more worrying than a club going backwards and when they do so at the rate Sunderland are, then even League One isn’t out of the question for them.
Signing Leadbitter for their midfield would go a long way in assuring that this does not happen – nobody wants to be the next Leeds or Sheffield Wednesday.