Former Middlesbrough midfielder Grant Leadbitter has taken to Instagram to thank fans for the standing ovation he received before the game as he returned to Teesside and the Riverside Stadium last weekend.
Birmingham City were the visitors to the North East as they looked to build on their 2-1 win against Swansea City the weekend before this meeting, a much-needed result against Russell Martin’s men after going winless seven-game run which saw them win just two points from a possible 21.
With this torrid spell of form, they hadn’t won on the road since the 21st August when they secured an emphatic 5-0 victory away at Luton Town, but a win of any margin was ideal for Lee Bowyer’s side in this match.
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They came up against a Boro side that had won their last three matches, scoring six goals and keeping clean sheets in all of those games as they climbed into the play-offs after a post-international break revival.
Unfortunately for Leadbitter’s former side, they fell to a 2-0 defeat against the Blues, ending their promising mini-run of form just two games before the next international interval.
This was still a special occasion for the former midfielder, who played for the club between 2012 and 2019 but announced his retirement from the game in September after his release from Sunderland.
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Taking to Instagram this morning to reflect on the weekend’s events, he said: “Enjoyed being back at the Riverside on Saturday.
“Just wanted to say how much I appreciate the standing ovation I got before the game!
“Thanks again to everyone at the club for inviting me and my family back for such a great day.”
In his prime, Leadbitter would have been a valuable option to have alongside the likes of Martin Payero, Matt Crooks and Jonny Howson with Paddy McNair still in defence amid their injury crisis in the backline.
He’s also a fan favourite and would have been a much-needed figure in the middle of the park when Neil Warnock’s men weren’t doing so well. The away loss to Hull City before the previous international break immediately comes to mind.
At that time, some were calling for Warnock’s sacking and morale was as low as ever on Teesside. Thankfully, they have managed to turn it around against struggling sides since then and with that, could afford this setback against Birmingham.
However, they will want to be competing for the top six and in that sense, the result at the weekend was a massive blow. At the Riverside against a side that had struggled before their previous match against Swansea, it was a great chance to win another three points.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but as a born winner and someone who guided Boro to the Premier League during his time there, it’s good Boro are keeping closely connected with the 35-year-old who could be involved at some point in the future.