Leeds United stormed through their first season back in the Premier League.
We admired the arrival of the solid-as-rock Ilan Meslier and the fancypants Raphinha, with player of the month nominee Rodrigo’s late uptake in form hinting at our record signing’s potential once the shadow of covid has passed over.
Our new international centre backs have been coming and going - mostly getting to know Adam Forshaw in the medical room - but their appearances more than proved their worth, with Llorente charging forward and slicing the ball clean from attackers’ feet (Ben White could never).
In their first season back, the Whites scored 62, conceded fewer and passed the ball more than 18,000 times. Luke Ayling single-handedly flopped his way to more than 30 free kicks and we’ve said goodbye to cherished friends Gaetano and Pablo. Only 8,000 fans witnessed their departure and caught a precious glimpse of a Premier League Leeds United but that won’t matter, since next year’s top flight spot was secured as early as mid-April, and now we’re getting ready to do it all over again.
LUFC Women enjoyed a strong season, sitting in fourth place when the league was sadly abandoned in March. The club honoured Olivia Smart with the Bobby Collins ‘Unsung Hero’ award for her 15 years’ service to Leeds and her sterling work in NHS transplant services. The full-back then acted as a superb spokesperson for the club as she became the first person to administer a jab at the newly launched vaccination centre at Elland Road.
Also doing the club proud was Wortley’s finest, Kalvin Philips. The Leeds lad was an ever-present pick in Gareth Southgate’s XI as the Three Lions reached the first final of a major tournament in over 50 years. Though the team fell agonisingly short, Kalv still kissed his runners-up medal, a touch of class from the Yorkshireman who didn’t put a foot wrong throughout.
Alongside the highs of a stellar footballing season, Marching Out Together took strides of our own towards promoting equality and inclusivity at the club.
Our usual pre-match meets were replaced by Zoom calls with opponents’ LGBT supporters’ group, which played a part in easing isolation and anxiety relating to Covid-19.
The annual ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign was marked by our premier league squad, who warmed up to face the Hammers in rainbow shirts while captain Coops joined Angus Kinnear in offering extensive coverage in the matchday program.
Our busiest month was February, when we raised £1,450 or the city’s elderly LGBT+ community by supporting MESMAC’s Sage initiative with the raffle of a match worn Rainbow Laces t-shirt. MOutT stalwart Mick Ward also hosted a talk on LGBT+ activism following the success of Channel 4’s It’s a Sin.
Meanwhile, MOutT were involved in LGBT awareness sessions at the Academy, and the young players’ thoughts about inclusivity have since been imprinted on the streets after the Burley Banksy painted their design onto an electric box near Thorp Arch.
The message of inclusivity will be enshrined in the fabric of the city elsewhere as, in April, MOutT won funding from Leeds Inspired for our very own mural, with plans for design and location still in process.
Marcelo Bielsa chipped into the efforts to raise awareness, pinning a Marching Out Together badge to his coat during Sky’s broadcast of the Manchester United goalless draw. That alone drew 340,000 Twitter views and our online presence has grown with nearly 800 new followers over the last year - another huge step towards making our club a welcoming place for all.
Most recently, we’ve worked with LUFC’s equality and diversity team on plans for the year ahead, had a piece for Pride published on the official website, and joined a meeting of the Parliamentary All-Party Football Group and are doing our bit for LGBT football fans everywhere by pressing for action, for example, on extending the Football Offence Act of 1991 to include the protection of characteristics beyond race.
It’s been a huge season for us as an organisation and for our beloved club. Here’s to making the next one even bigger….