We are delighted to announce that we are to continue our sponsorship of Leeds United Women… and this season with a new player.
We are thrilled to be sponsoring striker Laura Bartup who joined the club last year. Laura got off to a flying start with a great goal in this season’s final warm-up game, with LUFC-W claiming the Julie Chipchase Memorial Trophy with a 2-0 win over Doncaster Belles… and then scored FOUR in the home match v her former club Barnsley!
We will introduce Laura to you properly very shortly.
Keepup-to-date with LUFC Women’s season in FA Womens National League, Division One North.
Click here for FAWNLs webpage where you can see all the results, table updates, and check out upcoming fixtures.
Home matches are played at Tadcaster Albion FC. Entry is just £5.00, parking is free, there are seated and sheltered areas and you can usually get hot snacks… from the bar!
We are extremely proud to sponsor Olivia Smart of Leeds Utd Women.
Olivia is a great role-model and ambassador for the city and club. She is in her 16th season with LUFC, and is studying to qualify as an advanced practitioner in transplant surgery based at St James’s Hospital in Leeds. And she’s also a great footballer! In between all of that, Olivia was kind enough to find time for a chat to bring us up to date on her football, work and studies, and the impacts of the pandemic.
Last time we spoke you were pressing Barnsley for top spot although with a gap and then the season was suspended. How do you think it might have played out?
Who knows, hopefully it would have been one of those played out until the death with Leeds the winners !!
You completed your 15th season in disappointing circumstances, but then won the Bobby Collins Award. How did that feel?
It’s a privilege to be part of this club - this family - and for them to recognise me off of the pitch is just humbling.
The new season started with a lot of new signings. What impact has that had?
It’s been nice - fresh faces and a change in tack is good for everyone and our football style. In terms of my role I am naturally a defender who doesn’t defend, ha ha !! I press as a higher wing back.
This season was suspended after 6 games with LUFC sitting 4th. What are your hopes for a restart?
Obviously we’re hoping to get back to football and get going again but, sadly there are other priorities now and I think everyone’s very understanding of that.
What stage are you now at in your studies, and have you been able to maintain that in the pandemic?
I’m almost finished, the masters is almost complete. I guess I just have to thank my home life, family and friends for being able to carry out the perfect work life balance!
How has the pandemic affected your transplant role: did things continue and under what conditions?
Yes transplant thankfully continued in Leeds. It slowed as most things did but we still managed to keep the programme here open
We were proud to see you launch the vaccination centre at Elland Rd: what did it mean to you to have those two core parts of your life intersect?
It was nice, sums it up for me. Leeds as a club and a city is home for me and it was just nice to be doing my job at my second home !!
Is it possible for you to sum up your and your colleagues experience & feelings about the pandemic?
I don’t think it’ll ever be possible to sum up what we have all experienced and the effect it will have on everyone I think for the rest of their careers. I think the nature in which everyone has pulled together is truly a remarkable feat of British culture and people.
Thankyou for your time Olivia, good luck for the end of your studies, and we hope to come and see you play before too long. Keep safe.
Olivia joined LUFC aged 10 via the RTC (Regional Talent Club) development programme; now 25, this is her 15th year with the club. Cath Hammill joined aged 13 and with 10 years with the club is another Leeds ‘lifer’.
Leeds Utd Women FC play in the Women’s National League North, and there are Midlands and South Divisions, too. There is just one team promoted each season up to the Premier League, and above that the FA Women’s Super League with Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and the rest.
You came back from holiday and the bench to score in the 2-0 over Bolton Wdrs. LUFC went out of the cup last w/end then Sunday you scored again to help beat Norton.
Olivia: Ha ha yes you could say that goal against Bolton was a *slight* deflection!!! The goal against Norton was another odd one too – it hit the bar and bounced down and looked like a goal but no-one was sure… I waited what seemed ages for the ref to confirm! We don’t have VAR but that’s what it must feel like! None of my goals have been straightforward recently… I reckon I’ll have my own slot on ‘Question of Sport’ soon… “What decision was this?”, ha ha.
It seems recently as though you have been playing in a more wing-back mode on the left, getting much further forward and getting crosses in (and the same with Cath Hammill on the right?). Is that a new role for both of you?
Olivia: Yes it is, in fact the whole team is really well-organised this season and we all know our roles, and yes a much higher press is a key part of our game. I’m used to playing midfield so I’m ok with the up-and-back and covering more of the pitch, but Cath was a centre-half before so it’s been much more demanding on her – she’s doing brilliantly though and getting in some great attacking play and crosses.
Dan O’Hare won Manager of the month for November: how do you think the team is developing/learning under him? How is everyone feeling at this stage of the season compared to last year?
Olivia: If you look at the game last weekend when we were one up and they equalised with just a short while to go, we would have lost that last year. Dan’s built a lot of determination – grit – into us, and now we grind out results, he’s shown us how to manage the game out. When the opposition score we take a pause, think to ourselves ‘OK, so that’s happened’ and then regroup, push on, and more often than not we now win the game.
We have a really strong squad this season – Dan has kept us all together but also brought in some really good new girls including Kirsty Johnson from Doncaster, a keeper, and also Millie Kenyon, a striker from Sheffield. These are great signings, but Dan isn’t just looking at footballing ability (though the new girls are really strong!) he is also picking based on personality and ‘fit’… we are a tight knit group and he wants to retain and build on that. Dan has managed to build a strong ‘family’ feel around us… a bit like Bielsa for the men. And also, another similarity, when the new girls come in he doesn’t throw them straight into it, he gives them – and us – time to get used to each other and properly get used to the group and how they fit in.
Mind you, he’s not always happy: he ‘feels’ everything and is fighting for promotion with us… he had a go at us last week for “too much banter”, ha ha.
We work really hard too and it’s paying off, both for fitness and for the group. We don’t have matches every week, and when it’s an ‘off’ week we either train or we play another team – if we can at a higher level than us.
The biggest difference though is over a couple of years: two seasons ago we were staring at relegation… now we are pushing for promotion and that’s fantastic.
Barnsley are taking some catching and they still have a game in hand. They are well organised, very disciplined….. but, I can’t see them going the entire season unbeaten: we have to focus on our performance and make sure that when they do slip up we take full advantage.
Tell us a bit about the relationship with the club, do you get much contact with the men’s team?
Oh yes it’s fantastic! And that’s another way Dan is building the team up: we train and play at Thorp Arch, and Dan uses a lot of the same techniques as Marcelo Bielsa and the men do – for example they have a training routing called ‘Murder Ball’ and we do the exact same thing. Marcelo is always around, and often comes to watch us train and practice.
Julie Lewis, the General Manager, is really important in how we are developing. She played for Leeds United as a youngster, and she gets it. And… she’s a woman too and that does make a difference – but… she’s definitely NOT a mother-figure, ha ha. Bringing Julie in was Angus [Kinnear]’s decision and that speaks volumes; he doesn’t just talk about it, he delivers.
We had a meeting where we said all the things we would ideally like for the Womens team, and we got the lot! We wanted to play at Thorp Arch and use the all-weather pitch, we wanted to play in the proper Leeds United kit, and we wanted to wear the same badge. They said ‘Fine, here you go!’ and gave us all of it. Another thing is that we have squad numbers which are allocated to us, and that is then our number: so if you join, say, at one age category and then move between the teams, you still have your number, and that really makes you feel that you are part of it, that you belong and have your own place. These things are important.
Angus is definitely behind Julie and what we are doing here; Andrea [Radrizzani] too, he’s the same… we have meetings and functions that we go to and they come up to us, they know who we are, know our names and ask how we’re doing. It feels real, personal. The commitment from the club is actually really genuine and we appreciate it a lot. The sponsorship we get from Marching Out and other is really important but it only makes a contribution to running the team: we do get paid, and our expenses covered, and in the end that is covered by the club. I am sure that if (God forbid and we wouldn’t want it again but…) if the club got into the sort of relegation and financial trouble from years ago, I feel sure they would continue to back us even if they were struggling.
The players are great too and we get to see them a lot. I work at St James’s Hospital and for Organ Donor Week I asked Patrick Bamford if he could visit… there are so many demands on their time for community things on top of their training, but Patrick just came straight out and said yes and remembered all about it.
Tell us about your work at St James’s and how you balance that with football?
Olivia: I started out as a junior nurse and eventually moved into operating theatre practice. I am now an organ retrieval and transplant specialist: so, I perform the surgery to recover the organs from the donor and transplant them to the patient who needs them. I work shifts and that includes being part of an on-call rota, plus I am studying at the moment for a Masters in Advanced Practice, so I have to juggle my study time too.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust have been fabulous and allow me to take time when I need it to play. I am really grateful to them for that, and also to my colleagues because it affects them too. It was good when I was able to do something the other way and got Patrick Bamford in to the ward for Organ Donor Week… I walked through in my Leeds Utd training gear instead of my uniform and all the patients were like…. “What?... what are you doing dressed like that….?” and were really surprised when I walked in with Patrick.
It does all take a lot of juggling, and that’s even before you allow for friends, a social life and my family (who have been a fantastic support for me all along). Being a Leeds Utd fan is hard enough work as it is… never mind playing for them on top, ha ha!!
Gareth Thomas was on R4 last week about homophobia and the Football Offences Act. Also Beth Miles did a piece for R4. There is still no openly gay professional male footballer, but in the women’s game things seem more open, relaxed, inclusive. What are your thoughts on that?
Olivia: Oh, that’s complicated. You know, I think women are just better at talking about things – personal things, feelings – whereas men tend to keep things to themselves. For example – men don’t go to the doctor and talk about difficult things. It’s a shame. But sport is a great vehicle to talk about things, what with all the ‘ups & downs’, and the emotion of it. In the women’s game it’s just more mainstream, more normal… a number of the England team have been openly gay for a long time - Hope Powell, Casey Stoney, others; nobody really bothers about that.
I guess there’s the cliché about what ‘masculinity’ is supposed to be, an assumption that there would be a lower level of performance, but that’s just not right. Maybe for the men it’s a bit like mental health, which used to be a taboo subject nobody talked about – but it’s changing, it will become more open and people get more accepting over time.
It’s not just to do with football I don’t think – it’s a wider cultural thing and will probably still get picked on but it will change, it IS getting better even if it’s taking years… but, c’mon, it’s 2020 it’s time things changed!!
We get the other side, of course: a lot of guys will say “Oh right, but you’re all lesbians aren’t you…” and even though it really doesn’t matter, some people can still be hurt by it. But those kind of comments are just ignorance – just like anybody else in society, or any workplace, we may or may not be… as if it matters anyway, ha ha! It’s like the video the club made for Rainbow Laces, “If you can play, you can play.”
As proud Leeds United supporters we are excited to establish a new group that will welcome fellow LGBT+ fans and their friends.