RICKY Sbragia put a smile on the face of midfielder Grant Leadbitter by making him Sunderland’s captain against Blackburn Rovers, but the former England Under-21 international wants regular football to keep it there.
Leadbitter is the only senior member of the squad from the area, and is well used to watching the Black Cats from the Stadium of Light stands. But whereas as a youngster it gave him huge pleasure, as a professional it frustrates him.
The man from Fencehouses has started only four games this season – half of them in the cups – a statistic he desperately wants to improve.
“I haven’t been playing as much as I would have liked, I don’t think there’s any secret about that,” he said. “It’s been a very frustrating period and I’m not going to try to hide that. But that’s football.
“How frustrating? Ask my missus.
“I just want to play football, wherever that might be. That’s the thing I love, and that’s my priority.”
Leadbitter dodged the question of what he would do if another club came in for him before the transfer window closes a week today, but his love for Sunderland is undoubted.
“I just want to play football,” was his reply. “I’d be happy doing that at Sunderland, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“I haven’t spoken to Ricky (Sbragia, the Black Cats manager) about anything. But I want to get back to having a smile on my face.
“It was a massive honour to be made captain of Sunderland. I was really pleased when Ricky told me I was going to be wearing the armband. Everyone knows how much Sunderland means to me, so it was a proud moment for me and my family.”
Leadbitter admitted he found it difficult playing in front of a less than half-full stadium, but was pleased still to be in the FA Cup after Saturday’s 0-0 draw.
“There wasn’t much atmosphere and that never helps,” he said. “Sometimes you get that in an FA Cup match these days. It’s very difficult to play in conditions as flat as that.
“The important thing is we didn’t get beaten. We’re still in the hat for the next round and that was the first objective at the start of the day.”