Sunderland have cleared the decks ahead of a summer rebuild after failing to make it past the League One play-off semi-finals.
Lincoln City downed the Black Cats 3-2 on aggregate to set up a final with Blackpool at Wembley, leaving Lee Johnson to ponder what to do with his squad as they get set for a fourth straight season in the third tier.
The club’s retained list which was announced earlier this week saw confirmation that seven senior players would not have their deals renewed, including the likes of Chris Maguire and Max Power.
One of the more emotional exits though is that of Grant Leadbitter, whose second spell at the Stadium of Light has come to an end.
A born and bred Sunderland fan, Leadbitter came through the clubs academy and made 123 appearances in his first stint with the Black Cats, eventually moving on to play for Ipswich and Middlesbrough.
Can you name the Sunderland player who has been carded the most in each of the last 16 seasons?
He made a triumphant return to his boyhood club though in January 2019, although it’s not been the easiest of rides having had to deal with two play-off failures but also personal issues which saw him miss a large portion of matches in the 2019/20 campaign.
Leadbitter netted seven times this past season however he was still not retained, perhaps because of his advanced age as he’s now 35, and Sunderland owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has left a message of farewell on his Instagram page after the midfield penned an emotional goodbye to the fans.
Those kinds of messages just prove that Louis-Dreyfus gets the club and it was probably a hard decision to let Leadbitter go.
Even though he scored seven times this season, he was clearly slowing down and that’s to be expected given that he’s nearly at the end of his career.
With the ambitions that the new Swiss owner of the club has, Sunderland need better players all over the pitch and sometimes tough decisions have to be made when it comes to trimming the current squad.
That’s exactly what has happened with the likes of Leadbitter and Max Power – but for the former he was able to return to his boyhood club and even though his second stint didn’t end in success, he can probably retire a content man if it comes to that.