FOOTBALL stars and old team mates have been quick to pay tribute to Grant Leadbitter after the former Boro and Sunderland midfielder announced his retirement today. 

The 35-year-old has brought down the curtain on an 18-year career where he clocked up nearly 600 appearances with plenty of those games being played in the North-East of England. 

Asked about the former midfielder in this afternoon's press conference, Boro manager Neil Warnock said: 

“I think when he played against my teams, I was hoping he would have retired.

“Because you knew what you were getting with Grant. He was a whole heartedly player who gave everything. I don’t think he knew anything other than how to give everything during his game.

“Manager’s dream I would say, that type of player. The ones who I always talk about who are eight out of ten every week. I think that was Grant really and he’s served it up in the North-East and enjoyed himself really."

Ben Gibson, now in the Premier League with Norwich City was quick to pay tribute saying: "Incredible career mate congratulations." 

Former Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate said: "Well done mate. A pleasure to share a dressing room with you. Top guy." 

Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Lewis Wing, currently on loan from Boro said: "What a guy, what a career. Good luck in whatever you do next."

Former Sunderland team mate and Coventry City striker Martyn Waghorn wished Leadbitter all the best for the future along with former Boro full-back Tony McMahon and Watford striker Ashley Fletcher. 

Ex-Black Cats defender Anton Ferdinand commented on his Intagram post saying: "Congratulations on a great career Granty. Your mum and dad are looking down proud of everything you achieved. Good luck in your next chapter."

A former team mate of Leadbitter's at Ipswich Town was midfielder Jimmy Bullard who said: "Yes Granty, great career son and what a class player. More than top man to be around I’m always here you fancy a pint. You know that love the bulldog."