GRANT Leadbitter has always been a Sunderland fan.
But he has left no one in any doubt that when he takes the pitch tonight in the Capital One Cup fourth round tie at the Stadium of Light, he will be stretching every sinew and busting a gut to ensure his boyhood team is beaten by the Boro.
The Middlesbrough midfielder said: “We can definitely cause an upset and we’ll be going into the game with confidence although Sunderland are a Premier League team.
“They’re an established top-flight side with a lot of top-quality international players but we’re looking to go there and play well.
“Promotion has to be the priority – the club’s aim is to try and get back in the Premier League and we’d take that over any cup run.
“But we want to go there and win because it will help carry on the momentum we have in the squad.
“We’ve been winning games and that creates momentum, but you have to sustain it.
“I want to win trophies and everyone in that dressing room is the same.
“To do that, we have to go to Sunderland and win to get in the next round.
“It’ll be a tough game though. We’re going in with good form throughout the players. It’s good momentum, but as the old cliche says, it’s a local derby with a lot at stake.
“The fans will be pumped up for the game and I’m sure the players will be too. We just want to go there, give a good account of ourselves and win.”
This will be the 26-year-old’s first return to the Stadium of Light since deciding to quit the club three years ago.
He moved to Ipswich Town in a £2.65m deal but with the Blues struggling badly, Middlesbrough were able to pick him up for a free this summer when he exercised his right to a Bosman free transfer.
Leadbitter said: “It will be nice to see a few familiar faces and I’m looking forward to the game. It’ll be a good game between two good teams. We’re in good form and hopefully we’ll go there and make our fans proud.
“Sunderland are a good team with internationals all over the park. They’ve brought in the likes of Adam Johnson, who’s an excellent player and Steven Fletcher, who’s already scored a lot of goals.
“They’ve got Lee Cattermole in the middle of the park and everyone knows what a great job he does so it’ll be a good test for us.
“I joined Sunderland when I was seven so it was a massive part of my life.
“There are quite a few coaches still there at the football club who I owe a big debt of thanks to. I still speak to Ged McNamee quite a bit and he’s absolutely top drawer. He’s probably the person I’m looking forward to seeing the most.
“Kevin Ball was another big influence, although he was still a player for a lot of the time when I was growing up.
“They have some good staff there and it’ll be nice to go back and see them. Most of all though, it’ll be nice to go back and win.”