GRANT Leadbitter joined the rest of the Sunderland squad for the second day of pre-season training yesterday, despite still not having signed a new deal with the Black Cats.

The combative midfielder, who made 12 senior appearances last season, was offered a new contract last month.

And while he initially deemed Sunderland's offer "unsuitable", Leadbitter's presence at the Academy of Light suggests an agreement between the two parties is not too far away.

With Niall Quinn's proposed takeover of the club continuing to rumble on, Kevin Richardson put Sunderland's players through their paces as they continued their preparations for the new Championship campaign.

And, while the Black Cats are still without a permanent manager following Mick McCarthy's dismissal in February, they can at least boast a fully-fit squad despite last season's injury problems.

Stephen Elliott, Chris Brown, Stephen Wright, George McCartney, Kevin Kyle and Steve Caldwell all received treatment during the close season, but the sextet trained yesterday as Sunderland stepped up their preparations for their Championship opener at Coventry on August 6.

Elliott, in particular, was sorely missed last season, and the Republic of Ireland international is understandably delighted to have finally put his injury problems behind him.

A succession of back, hamstring and ankle injuries restricted the striker to just 16 appearances last term but, after finally receiving a clean bill of health, Elliott is desperate to hit the ground running in six weeks' time.

"I trained (yesterday) and I feel fine," said the Irishman. "I'll just keep my fingers crossed that everything is okay.

"I've done some work over the last few weeks and my fitness level feels fine. It's just a case of working towards games now.

"Things went wrong for me last season, but that's in the past. Now, I just want another good season in the Championship with Sunderland."

Meanwhile, Sunderland's trip to Leeds has been put back 24 hours to Wednesday, September 13.

* Birmingham midfielder Muzzy Izzet has been forced to retire due to a long-term knee injury.

The 31-year-old has a year left on his contract with the relegated West Midlands club but having failed to overcome the problem which has blighted his two-year spell at St Andrews, the former Turkey international has decided to hang up his boots with his contract cancelled by mutual consent.