Ex-Sunderland man Grant Leadbitter delivers emotional message to fans after Stadium of Light appearance
Grant Leadbitter has delivered an emotional message to Sunderland fans.
The midfielder bid a moving farewell to the Sunderland crowd before Saturday’s League One clash with Bolton Wanderers.
Leadbitter recently announced his retirement after leaving the club earlier this summer, and was the guest of honour at the Stadium of Light.
Supporters watched a montage of his finest Sunderland goals, including his stunning strike against Arsenal in the Premier League.
Leadbitter then came to the edge of the pitch to salute the Red & White Army.
Club legend Jimmy Montgomery also presented Leadbitter with a framed photograph of some of the midfielder’s most iconic moments in a red-and-white shirt.
The former midfielder is weighing up his next steps in the game, and is expected to continue earning his coaching badges.
Posting on Instagram, Leadbitter penned an emotional thank you to Sunderland fans: “Just wanted to say thank you to everyone at Sunderland AFC for inviting me back as a guest on Saturday.
“It was an emotional day for me and my family and I was completely lost for words with the reception I got from the club and amazing fans. Incredible.
"Another 3 points on the board for the lads.”
Leadbitter made over 500 appearances across his career, a hugely popular figure at Middlesbrough where he was also an integral part in a promotion campaign to the Premier League, as he was under Roy Keane on Wearside.
Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson also paid tribute to Leadbitter after working with the player at Sunderland last season.
"From the Stadium of Light to the Academy of Light, Grant will always be welcome at this football club. He’s a fantastic guy, who is so, so passionate about Sunderland, and he’s also been a top player.
"It was an honour to work with him and we have always talked about leaving the door open for him to return at some point in a different capacity – you want to draw local and historic knowledge from him about what it means to play for Sunderland because he has done that with quality and immense pride.
"He deserves all the plaudits he will receive today, so hopefully he enjoys it and it caps off a fantastic career.”