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Sunderland: Phil Smith backs Grant Leadbitter to retain starting place

Sunderland: Phil Smith backs Grant Leadbitter to retain starting place - Sunderland News

Sunderland Echo writer Phil Smith has discussed whether or not Grant Leadbitter will keep his place in Sunderland’s starting XI this coming weekend.

Leadbitter was an unused substitute against Bristol Rovers on the opening day of the League One season in a game which ended 1-1.

With George Dobson seeing red in that game, the experienced midfielder was handed a start by Phil Parkinson at the weekend as the Wearsiders overturned Oxford United 2-0.

Playing the full game, the midfielder helped Sunderland ensure that they made it four points out of a possible six and journalist Smith has now touched on whether he thinks Leadbitter will keep his place.

When asked whether or not Leadbitter should keep his place in the starting XI via his Q&A with Sunderland Echo, Smith said: “As long as he maintains that level of performance, he will stay in the team.

“Most of the side struggled in the first half and while Leadbitter was far from dominant, he still played one or two excellent passes to open the game up.

“In his two appearances so far we’ve seen some good signs in terms of his understanding with Aiden O’Brien, springing him clear with good balls over the top.

“In the second half he was excellent, on top of second balls, positionally aware and making key interceptions.

“We know that Parkinson wants to play with a holding midfielder, as he feels it gives the full/wing-backs the cover they need to get forward.

“Leadbitter will keep the role for the weekend, you feel, and has a chance to really stake a claim.

“Of course, we know that in this congested fixture schedule, he isn’t going to play every single game.

“Like many, I’ve said it would be good to see what Josh Scowen can do from the start.

“It may well be that this Saturday is the day.

“Parkinson said post-match that he doesn’t think Max Power’s injury is too serious, but he’s certainly a doubt at this stage.”

The 34-year-old made 14 League One appearances during the 2019/20 season but was handed a spell of compassionate leave in February due to personal reasons. Now that he is back in action, the midfielder will be looking to add to his tally of 534 career appearances.

Leadbitter was as steady as a rock on Saturday and his experience could well be a key part of Sunderland’s season.

It will be interesting to see if he features against Peterborough at the weekend but, with a good win behind them, Parkinson could remain largely loyal to the team that defeated Oxford.

Do you think Leadbitter should stay in the starting XI? Let us know your views in the comments section below…

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Article title: Sunderland: Phil Smith backs Grant Leadbitter to retain starting place

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