Middlesbrough FC bring former fan favourite Grant Leadbitter back as academy coach

Former captain Grant Leadbitter is to return to Middlesbrough as an academy coach.

The 36-year-old was a popular figure at the Riverside, making 230 appearances in between spells with his boyhood club Sunderland, and led Boro to their last Premier League promotion in 2016.

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The whole-hearted central midfielder also played top-flight football for the Black Cats.

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RETURNING: Former Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter has rejoined the clubRETURNING: Former Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter has rejoined the club
RETURNING: Former Middlesbrough captain Grant Leadbitter has rejoined the club

Since retiring from playing last summer, Leadbitter has been a regular figure at Rockliffe, where Boro have allowed him to work with their younger players as he studied for his UEFA A licence.

Now he has the qualification, he has been handed a job as the academy's individual development coach, providing coaching and support across the age groups.

Leadbitter is not the only new coach in what is expected to be a summer of change in terms of the first-team squad, too.

Former Hull City and York City goalkeeper Alan Fettis has left Manchester United's academy to work with Boro's senior players. Although his job title is goalkeeping coach, manager Chris Wilder said: "In terms of recruitment and the work that goes into that, he will play a key role. Then with the coaching, it’s such an important role now and has evolved a lot. Goalkeepers can ultimately start your attacks now. Ultimately they’ve got to make some big saves as well and hopefully Al will help make sure they’re ready to do that.”

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Boro are on the look-out for a new first-choice goalkeeper this season, having already signed Liam Roberts on a free transfer from Northampton Town.

A very shy figure off the pitch - certainly when around the media - during his playing days, Leadbitter may not have seemed a natural coach despite his captaincy credentials, but academy manager Craig Liddle sees qualities he can bring to the role.

"He brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding," he pointed out. “He’s an example for the young players in our academy because of what he achieved in his career and he knows what it takes to be a good professional.”

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