FORMER Sunderland midfielder Grant Leadbitter has returned to the North East to sign for Middlesbrough.
The 26-year-old has inked a three-year deal with Boro, who beat off competition from Championship rivals to secure the man Tony Mowbray wanted to replace Canada-bound Barry Robson.
The Boro boss believes Leadbitter, who began his career at North East rivals Sunderland, offers the bite and goal threat to complement his existing midfield options.
And for the player himself, it is a chance to move back north after three good seasons at Ipswich Town, where he was out of contract this summer.
“I’m pretty excited,” Leadbitter said. “I wanted a fresh challenge and when the opportunity to join Middlesbrough came in, I just couldn’t turn it down. I just want to play well for Middlesbrough and get the club in the Premier League.”
Leadbitter arrives with Premier League experience, having made 111 appearances at the Stadium of Light under Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia and Steve Bruce.
But he departed for Ipswich in 2009 in a deal worth £2.6million and went on to play 116 times, scoring 13 goals for the East Anglian outfit.
So the former England under-21 man comes with a pedigree and is the ideal addition for Mowbray (pictured left) as he looks to mount a challenge to tip Boro into play-off contention
“I am delighted we have managed to sign a player of Grant’s quality, tenacity and competitive edge,” the Boro manager said.
“In my mind, we are signing a player who has matured to have a good understanding of the game. Following the loss of Barry Robson, he will ensure that we will retain the competitive experience that we need in midfield.
“We knew that Grant was out of contract and when a player of his qualities is in that position we obviously became interested. Hopefully he will be a core player for us in a side that will be pushing for promotion next season.”
Mowbray has embarked on a rebuilding job following their failed promotion bid last season, and is considering a number of new recruits to change the shape of Boro’s squad.
Leadbitter is the first of many but the Boro boss is examining others, with Bristol Rovers winger Mustapha Carayol and striker Emmanuel Ledesma of Walsall also being looked at.