Ex-Sunderland captain calls for Roy Keane to return to management

Former Sunderland captain Grant Leadbitter says football needs Roy Keane to get back into management – after talks over a return to Wearside broke down.
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Keane was interviewed during the Black Cats’ search for a new head coach, yet terms couldn't be agreed.

Leadbitter, 36, played under Keane during the Irishman’s first spell at Sunderland between 2006 and 2008.

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“I loved it,” Leadbitter told Soccer AM when asked about playing under Keane. “Apart from my mum and dad, he was one of the biggest influences on my career, I certainly would say that.

Former Sunderland captain Grant Leadbitter.Former Sunderland captain Grant Leadbitter.
Former Sunderland captain Grant Leadbitter.

“The way you’ve got to go about your business every day, trying to improve each day, the standards. I can remember one time when he first got the job, and I went into his office to ask what can I improve on and stuff like that.

“I remember him saying, ‘Look, I was 33, 34, still playing, and you can always improve,’ and for him to say that, I was thinking, ‘Bloody hell, I’m only 18 years old, 19 years old, you can always want to improve.’ That’s always stuck with me.”

Leadbitter retired from football last year and was asked if he’d spoken to Keane recently. “I was blown away to be honest, I was on holiday out in Portugal and he picked up the phone and congratulated me on my retirement,” he said.

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“That’s the kind of man he is. I think he’s a real good, honest fella. I think the game misses him. I do think the game needs him back in it.”

Sunderland AFC news RECAP (February 14)

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We’re signing off for today but have loads more Black Cats content over on the SAFC section of the Echo website.

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Sunderland U23s in action tonight

Sunderland’s under-23s will face Wigan in the Premier League Cup tonight.

Sunderland loanee Will Grigg has been ruled out for around eight weeks with a hamstring injury which may require surgery.

The 30-year-old striker has scored six goals in all competitions on loan at Rotherham this season, and will be out of contract at Sunderland in the summer.

According to the Rotherham Advertiser, Millers boss Paul Warne is planning to try to sign Grigg permanently at the end of the season despite the injury setback.

Stewart substitution explained

Sunderland’s top scorer Ross Stewart was substituted in the 73rd minute when both sides were pushing for a winner on Saturday.

Neil said after the game: “If you look at Ross, he’s probably not played as many games as this in a season and we’ve still got another third to go.

“So that’s tough for him, and he looked a bit jaded, which is why I took him off.

“We’ve got to protect these boys, so that we try and freshen them up for these games physically and mentally.

“These next few games are going to be really important.”

We spoke to Alex Pritchard after Saturday’s game

Reaction to Saturday’s draw

Neil gave an honest assessment when asked about the job he has taken on.

“We’ve got to get our ideas into them next week,” he said.

“What struck me about that team was that I think there were seven players under the age of 22.

“So there’s not a lot of experience there and there’s a gap in terms of, experienced players have come into the club but they’ve not had many minutes, so they’re coming from a standing start.

“Then you have a lot of lads in their first year and at the minute, a lot of them look tired.

“Ultimately, we haven’t got a huge of amount of options so that’s something I need to have a good look at.

“I need to get minutes into these experienced players because they are key players if I can get them going. The difficulty I’ve got is that I’ve got very limited time in which to do that.”

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It’s certainly been an eventful two weeks!

Finally Sunderland have a new head coach, and Alex Neil has 14 games to try to revive the Black Cats’ season.

We’ll have more reaction to Neil’s first game in charge, as well as the latest SAFC news throughout the day.

Stick around and refresh the page for live updates.