GRANT Leadbitter was a guest of honour for yesterday's tie between Sundnerland and Bolton Wanderers where he shared an emotional moment in front of the home crowd.

The 35-year-old announced his retirement from playing earlier this month after 18 years in the game playing for his hometown club. 

Leadbitter featured over 200 times for the Black Cats across two spells and captained the side to the Papa Johns Trophy last season.

He would also go on to earn legendary status at Middlesbrough captaining the club to Championship promotion in 2016 where he also played over 200 games. 

It was a brief but poignant moment at the Stadium of Light around ten minutes before the 3pm kick-off. 

The main screens in the stadium and the televisions in the concourse had been showing highlights of some of Leadbitter's best moments in a Sunderland shirt as fans geared up to celebrate one of their own calling it a day. 

Surrounded by his family, Leadbitter was introduced over the PA system to rapturous applause as he emerged from the tunnel. A walk he's done many times in his career but none quite as emotional as that.

Leadbitter greeted the crowd with his family just a few yards behind him. The midfielder then shared a moment with family that sadly could not be there as he knelt down in the technical area where his parents ashes are scattered. 

The Northern Echo: Grant Leadbitter shares moment with the turf where his parents ashes are scattered.Grant Leadbitter shares moment with the turf where his parents ashes are scattered.

He and his family were then presented with a framed collection of photos of some of his greatest moments in a Sunderland shirt. 

It barely lasted thirty seconds. It was short but sweet. Maybe something you could perhaps describe a football career as. Especially one that's achieved the status and reputation like Leadbitter's. 

It was emotional moment where tears were shed. Including from the manager Lee Johnson. 

He said: “I bumped into him and you could see the whole family and Karen, who works as an executive assistant for myself and the board, were all crying. And that made me cry.

“It was definitely an emotional moment and rightly so because he’s had a fantastic career. Obviously his record as a player speaks for itself and the quality he showed.

“More importantly, the effort he’s put in for this football club. It was a fitting testament to a really good career."

It remains t be seen what's next for Leadbitter as he hangs up his boots but if it's anything like his playing career, then his new venture will be a successful one.