By Martin 'Badger' Chadwick
Sunday 14th December saw Leeds Ladies FC host Mossely Hill in the final league game of 2014. It turned out to be quite an emotional day so I apologise in advance for the more personal than normal tone to this weeks match report. Its only been 7 months since news broke that Leeds United had decided to disband Leeds United Ladies FC and while on paper that seems a very small amount of time, In reality it feels like a lifetime away.
We have come a long way from that inaugural meeting in the Peacock to discuss the future of woman’s football in Leeds to actually travelling a “long way” to and from away games. As the fans rallied around to ensure the future of the club all we asked of the players in the upcoming season was to go out week in week out and enjoy football again. These girls gave so much more than that….Pride, determination, grit, heart, soul, fight, courage, laughs, fun, a sense of family and togetherness.
I have been apathetic towards football over the last decade and more due to the Bates/Krasner/GFH *insert crisis here* debacle at Elland Road but these amazing women have rekindled my passion for the game. They know football they understand it, they live and breath it, everyone one of us grew up hoping and wishing that one day maybe just maybe we could pull on a Leeds shirt and play for our beloved club. These girls don’t just wear that shirt, they live that dream and share it with every fan at every game. They understand how important football is not just to themselves but to everyone watching and supporting them, they know how long the drive home from Tranmere is when you lose compared to how short it is when you win.
They don’t get paid ludicrous salaries or have over inflated sponsorship deals. They love football and they love Leeds. It’s that simple. If just one player in the men’s team played 10 minutes of a game like these girls play a full 90+ he would win every fan award going and finish the season with a statue on Elland Road or part of the ground named after him. We like to convince ourselves that the Jermaine Beckford’s, Alan Smith’s and Ross McCormack’s love Leeds and will never leave us, with these girls there is no doubt. They are Leeds, they are the embodiment of Billy Bremner’s spirit and they bleed blue white and yellow.
Just take a look back to the interview with Chairman Gary Cooper after the first game of the season (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1aXZdVtMG4) not only is he clearly emotional but the relief that weeks of hard work as paid of is evident. I remember that morning well, pre kick off and everyone involved in making the game happen was a nervous wreck. We had done all we could it was up to the girls now. We could do no more. Fast forward 7 months were 3rd in the league, 6 points off top with a game in hand and confidence by the skip full. Not one fan, staff member or player ever thought the result was in doubt against Mossely.
We knew Mossely were not going to be easy, they are pushing for the league title too, so it was no surprise to see the game quickly become a hard fought battle in midfield. Mossely are a tough, physical side but Leeds were pinging the ball about on the floor with the beautiful style that the “special One” Jak Oldroyd as brought to the team this year.
There were very few breaks for either side until the 25th min when the ref decided to give a penalty for a ridiculous handball decision that is best summed up by captain Emma Bentley in the upcoming YouTube video. Mossely converted the penalty to take a fairly undeserved one nil lead.
They game continued to be a hard fought battle in midfield with the kind of things you just don’t see in premiership football. Crunching tackles, fighting for every single ball and a linesman eating jaffa cakes! For the next few minutes he had to put up with “the linesman eating biscuits” from the phoenix faithful which luckily he took in good humour.
The 44th min saw Shelby Morris break free of the Moseley defence to go one on one with the keeper, a beautiful lob saw Leeds ladies level the score line at one all and Shelby’s signature “golf swing” celebration.
The second half saw Leeds come out hungrier than ever and poor Mossely didn’t know what had hit them. Bentz put Leeds Ladies 2-1 up just two minutes into the second half and then set up Kez for a 30 yarder just seven minutes later! 54th minute and its 3-1 to the phoenix.
Mossely are no pushover though and managed to break through the Leeds defence on the 58th min to make it 3-2. A few heart breaking last minute defeats have taught the girls well this season and they refused to let Mossely back into the game after fighting so hard for the lead.
The 70th min brought controversy of the good kind when Kez struck from outside the area, beat the keeper to take the score to 4-2 only for Bentz to try steal the goal by following the ball in, The jaffa cake munching linesman was having none of though and awarded the goal to Kez but Bentz is adamant she was “dead close to it though” (just like at Guiseley).
The 77th min brought more humour for the fans as Leeds Ladies were awarded a free kick in our own half, Emily Von Starkie decided it was to be taken 5 yards further up the pitch then the referee said and moved the ball accordingly. The referee moved it back to its original position, once his back was turned Von Starkie moved it forward five yards. In true Christmas panto fashion that happened another two times before the referee simply had enough and booked Von Starkie.
Emily went on to have the last laugh though when she listened to the advice of fans who were shouting “shoooot” and hit a beautiful curling strike from the edge of the area on the 89th min to take the score line to 5-2 in the phoenix favour.
So 2014 comes to a close with Leeds Ladies on a run of 7 wins, scored 32 and conceded 3, feared by everyone in the league and have exceed mine and everyone else expectations, A massive thank you must go to Jim and Nicola Bright for making all this possible, Jan and Tor who regularly travel from Norway to watch games and are super fans in every sense of the word. Gary “Daddy Coops” Cooper for his enthusiasm and leadership. Jak “The Special One” Oldroyd, ALL of the Leeds ladies first team and development squad for making football passionate and loveable again. Dan chapman, Matthew McKeith, Simon O’Rourke and Andy Gregory for giving us a voice
In 2014 we said the Phoenix was rising, come join us in 2015 to watch it soar.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year