A “Boro Dad”. It’s now become a bastardised term used by young Teessider’s on social media to describe people that hold the opposing view to you. Don’t rate a player I’ve got as my Twitter avi? Boro Dad you, mate.
Really though, a Boro Dad is that bloke that everybody knows. He loves a good old fashioned 442 (none of that foreign wingbacks nonsense), thumps his chest and screams for Dimi every time we concede a goal and uses words like “drive on” and “press your man” despite not knowing what they *actually* mean. They’re rare and strange beasts, that can only be viewed in their two natural habitats; the North Stand and Doctor Brown’s, where they’ll be chugging really flat piss-like Carlsberg while chuntering on about whether we’ll lose Adama Traore to the African Cup of Nations despite the fact he’s y’know…Spanish.
However, there’s only one man who can claim to be the real Boro Dad. While most of us have to go through life experiencing a lukewarm relationship with our fathers that’s based more on proving them wrong and earning their respect than on endearment there is one man that every Red can count on. Grant Leadbitter. Never thought I’d say that about a Mackem.
A driving force in the promotion push under Aitor Karanka, the blood and guts midfielder played through the pain of a hernia to drag his side into the Premier League during the 15/16 campaign. The lasting impression of the previous years’ play-off defeat had been a stony faced Grant Leadbitter staring at a crumbling wall of heartbroken Boro fans at Wembley. The lasting impression of promotion was of the captain leading the songs on the pitch and in the Dickens. After joining the club in 2012, the midfield bulldog had finally achieved promotion with the team he’d fallen in love with.
After missing the first half of the season due to complications from surgery on his hernia, Leadbitter only managed 7 starts in the Premier League and fell behind Marten de Roon, Adam Clayton and Five Yard Forshaw in the race for a midfield place, as the Boro limped and whimpered back to the Championship.
This summer then saw Norwich midfield general Jonny Howson join the team as Garry Monk looked to overhaul the squad, throwing Leadbitter’s first team hopes into further doubt. There was even talk of Simon Grayson trying to entice the 31 year old back to Wearside. The club captain’s days on Teesside seemed numbered, especially when it became apparent Howson was considered a nailed on starter by Monk; starting 5 games on the bounce.
However, Howson has so far failed to impress. He *should* end up coming good, he’s been a standout player for both Leeds and Norwich for years, with him being widely considered in the top 5 midfielders at this level. At the moment though, he’s struggled to impose himself on the midfield and doesn’t seem to offer anything beyond a body to fill a shirt.
Meanwhile, Leadbitter had to make do with a run out with the second string side against Scunthorpe in the Carabao Cup. Running the game from the centre of the park, Leadboots provided a solid base for Lewis Baker, Marcus Tavernier, Ashley Fletcher and Adama Traore to wreak havoc in a 3-0 win against a poor Scunny side. The magic of the Carabao, indeed.
Howson would finally lose his place in the starting eleven at Bolton last Saturday, with Leadbitter taking the captain’s armband in a league game for the first time this season. Barking orders, flying into bone rattling tackles and spreading his patented cross field balls like butter; he was back.
However, his most important contribution to Boro’s best performance under Garry Monk so far was acting as Adama Traore’s football Dad. Bollocking him for going “too Traore” instead of playing a simple pass inside, hauling him back into position when we needed to defend and watching on in delight as his little speed demon baby span David Wheater out of his Diadoras to set up two goals for Assombalonga; Grant was every inch the Sunday League touchline Dad.
Playing on the right side of midfield also meant Daddy Grant was able to help guide another prodigious Boro talent, Dael Fry, through the game. He was always offering an easy outlet for the young defender to pass to and backed him up against Gary Madine, as the wily shithouse forward looked to bully Fry.
As any good Dad would, Leadbitter then fought tooth and nail at Villa to cover for Traoe’s early sending off. Grant led his troops through an onslaught from Spamhead Steve Bruce’s side, an experience that will only strengthen the bond between a squad that is slowly coming together.
That’s where the ex-Ipswich man will be most needed this year. A lot of people in the summer were quite prepared to let Leadbitter leave the Riverside because he had “lost his legs” and he was “too old and we should be looking to the future”. He’s 31, not 41, and he’s never “had legs” once during his 423 career appereances. Grant Leadbitter always has been and always will be the midfield stopper that can twat a ball dead hard. He’s our captain and he’s crucial to guiding this club to promotion at the first time of asking.
Garry Monk has brought together a team that is full of young, hungry players with bags of potential and talent but they’re all going to need their Dad by their sides to help them along the way.