By Kevin Phillips

6th Sep, 2020 | 4:12pm

Exclusive: Kevin Phillips in awe of Sunderland player after major development

Kevin Phillips was delighted to hear that Grant Leadbitter had returned to action and claimed that the midfielder can be a “real asset” to Sunderland this season.

The Stadium of Light hero, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, suggested that the 34-year-old will be a big help to Phil Parkinson’s side both on and off the field in the 2020/21 campaign.

Sunderland’s captain took time away from football earlier this year following the passing of his mother in May 2019 but returned to training ahead of the new season.

Leadbitter, who has made 158 appearances for the Black Cats during two spells with his boyhood club, is into the final 12 months of his contract on Wearside.

Phillips believes that Leadbitter’s experience will also help develop some of the younger players at the Stadium of Light.

“It is great to hear that he is back,” he told Football Insider.

Subscribe to Football Insider TV now

“Grant has been a good, steady player over his career. I have watched him a lot over the last five years and he has a lot of experience now. Maybe he cannot get around the pitch like he used to but he can get on the ball and make things happen if Phil Parkinson plays the right players in and around him. He can be a real asset for them.

“Leadbitter is a leader. I completely forgot that Leadbitter was still at the club. He will help the young players that they have already got there.”

When speaking on social media, he said: “This is a message to say thank you after some of the most difficult days and months of my life.

“It has felt great being back on the training pitch and playing football in recent weeks. The minutes I have had in the friendlies so far I have enjoyed and I’m looking forward to the new season.”

In other Sunderland news, Kevin Phillips backs Black Cats to land ‘Clever’ Championship striker this summer.