Sunderland legend Grant Leadbitter confirms his retirement from professional football
Grant Leadbitter has confirmed his retirement from professional football.
The 35-year-old has been weighing up his options since leaving Sunderland earlier this summer, and will now consider his next steps in the game.
The hugely popular midfielder says the memories of his two spells at the club his family have supported since he was a boy 'will live with him forever'.
Leadbitter was an integral part of the Sunderland side promoted to the Premier League under the management of Roy Keane, an experience he has described as 'incredible'.
He made 206 appearances across all competition for the Black Cats, scoring 18 goals.
Leadbitter also thanked Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town for their part in his career.
At the Riverside Leadbitter played a crucial role in winning promotion to the Premier League under Aitor Karanka, having made over 100 appearances at Portman Road after initially leaving Wearside.
Yet to decide on his next move, Leadbitter says he will draw on his vast experience to 'help others in the future'.
Writing on Instagram, Leadbitter said: "The time has come to officially end my days playing professional football.
"After taking a few months off to enjoy a holiday with the family and reflect, I've realised I am ready to retire.
"Of course there has been the temptation to carry on, but since playing my final game for Sunderland in May I had it in my mind I wasn't going to play on. I just wanted to be sure it was the correct decision.
"For me to finish my second and final spell at the club where it all started, the one I supported as a boy, and where I loved going with my mam and dad, just seems right.
"Now I can look forward.
"I would like to thank my mam and dad for everything they did for me and my sisters - helping me to fulfil a dream.
"And, of course, I want to thank my wife and two daughters for all their support throughout a career which has led me to play for clubs with great history.
"The memories I have playing for Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Ipswich will live with me forever.
"Those promotion celebrations with Sunderland and Middlesbrough were incredible and I am proud to have played in the Premier League for both.
"I have worked with some fantastic people, some top players and some brilliant managers. I loved wearing the colours of all the clubs I have played for and it was an honour to wear the England shirt from schoolboy all the way up to Under-21s.
"Who knows what the future holds but I am excited about it.
"I will miss playing but whether I go into coaching, the media or even something else I know I can draw on my experiences and help others in the future.
"Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way."