Middlesbrough's Grant Leadbitter celebrates with the trophy and team mates after being promoted to the Barclays Premier League
Things have got off to a rocky start this season for Middlesbrough, as their return to the promised land of the Premier League is not going as smoothly as they had hoped. With a number of disappointing results over the last few weeks there are many pessimistic fans around the Riverside, however the return of one player in particular could alter their mood drastically. As reported by The Northern Echo, manager Aitor Karanka has stated that captain Grant Leadbitter is close to a return for the club.
Following hernia surgery back in May, the 30-year-old missed the entirety of pre-season in addition to the start of the actual campaign. Despite this, Karanka has said that the midfielder has made significant progress on his road to recovery.
“I hope he will be training next week, or the following week. He's desperate to be back with the team. It will be a big boost, really important for the team." Karanka said to The Northern Echo.
Middlesbrough's Grant Leadbitter and Ipswich's David McGoldrick
“Even now when he's not in the training sessions or playing in the games, he traveled to West Ham to be in our changing room, he travelled to Everton and Sunderland because he's a really important part of this changing room.
“He knows and the other lads know. He has a smile on his face - when you're playing in London and when your captain who's been injured for two or three months and he's the first one to arrive, or when you're at Sunderland and he was really disappointed to miss that game, he was still with the teammates and showing his character. Even when he's been injured, he's been with the team - it's been really important.”
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka
Leadbitter has been at the club for four years now and played an integral role in their promotion from the Championship, having previously spent six years at bitter rivals Sunderland.
Fans will be hoping he can return sooner rather than later as the Teessiders prepare for a tough schedule in the next few weeks that includes games against Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Huddersfield Town's Jamie Paterson (L) in action with Middlesbrough's Grant Leadbitter