Grant: I needed to move on

YESTERDAY was an historic day in the life of Grant Leadbitter.

Stuart Watson

YESTERDAY was an historic day in the life of Grant Leadbitter.

The 23-year-old has known only one football club the whole of his life - Sunderland.

But today the quietly-spoken midfielder will wake up more than 250 miles away in Suffolk ready to start a new chapter in his life.

“I was at Sunderland from the age of seven, I was a fan of the club and I still will be,” said Leadbitter. “But I needed to move on.”

Looking out across the Portman Road pitch, he went to continue: “There were things...” but, after a contemplative pause, simply reiterated: “I just needed to move on.”

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To the uninitiated, many would have come to the simple conclusion that Leadbitter was simply upset at having found himself relegated to the bench at his beloved Black Cats this season. It goes far deeper than that.

Others might have read of the incident in which Leadbitter was pulled over by an unmarked police car when speeding earlier this summer, the player claiming that he feared he was being chased by Newcastle fans. Again, it goes far deeper than that.

In fact it goes back to May last year when Leadbitter's father, Brian, died aged 50 in a tragic accident at home. The factory worker was the man who kept his son interested in football at a young age and suddenly he was gone. As a fitting tribute the lifelong Sunderland fan's ashes were scattered across the Stadium of Light pitch.

Just weeks later, on Saturday, October 4, a still-mourning Leadbitter gave his father the perfect send-off, coming off the bench late against Arsenal to fire a spectacular goal in off the underside of the bar on the same turf. The youngster collapsed to the ground in a poignant moment.

Since then Leadbitter has become a father. The birth of his now 10-month-old baby has provided him with the perfect excuse to move away from the place that harbours so many painful memories and start afresh, hopefully to build many positive new ones.

“For the sake of myself and my family I needed to move on,” said Leadbitter. “As soon as I heard that Roy Keane wanted me it was an easy decision. In my mind it was done and dusted straight away.

“I've been told by my new team-mates that this is a lovely place to live and for me to bring up my child.

“I'm looking forward to getting my family down at the weekend and finding somewhere to settle down.”

With a clear head the shy, yet fiercely ambitious Leadbitter is hopeful of doing big things on the football pitch. Capped at England Under-21 level he still feels he has the ability to push on as a player and, under the tutelage of Roy Keane - his former boss at Sunderland - become one of the country's best players in his position.

“I'm happy to be here. I want to do well for Ipswich Town Football Club and get them back in the Premier League.

“Sunderland are a big club but Ipswich are a big club too and that's why I'm here.

“I've been brought up to give 100% and that's what I will give. I'll be trying to get on the ball and bring a bit of quality to the side.

“This club has the stature of a Premier League club, but it's the players that have got to make it happen.

“We've got to work hard on the training pitch and then work hard for 90 minutes, 95 if necessary, during matches if we are going to push on up the league.

“I want to keep improving, that's the sort of person I am. I played for England from under-16s through to the under-21s but that's in the past now. It's about today and tomorrow and I can't wait for this new start.”

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