Leeds United Women’s top scorer Laura Bartup insists the Whites are targeting a Division One North trophy lift after the striker’s goals fired them into first place.
United have made an excellent start to their league campaign and as they approach the midpoint of the season it looks as though, after two years of coronavirus disruption, their push for promotion could finally reap rewards.
Only one team will escape tier four come the end of the season but, at the top of Division One North after nine games, the Whites are hoping to stay the distance.
Crucial to their success is the impressive form of striker Bartup who, with twelve goals to her name, is pushing to be the league’s top scorer again after taking the crown at Barnsley in 2019.
No stranger to the league, the 25-year-old also served two seasons at fellow promotion hopefuls Liverpool Feds before joining Leeds from their Yorkshire rivals in the summer of 2020. Now, at the heart of an ambitious Whites team, Bartup is ready to take the title.
“All I want to do is win the league and to win it with Leeds United,” she said. “I want to give my all for them - I absolutely love it.”
“Hopefully I'll be at Leeds for a long time.”
Having scored all eleven of her league goals at home, the Whites star has become something of a fan favourite at the Global Stadium, where the number of supporters is rising week on week.
“It's always nice when you score to hear a cheer from the crowd,” she said. “Support this season has been brilliant so far, and I think the fan base is only going to get bigger and bigger.”
Two hundred and forty-two fans watched on as Leeds beat FC United of Manchester 5-0, a considerable step up from last season’s attendances, which didn’t hit three figures.
The swelling of the home crowd owes in part to a marked increase in publicity across Leeds United’s official channels, but also speaks of a country-wide uptake of women’s football, as Sky Sports and the BBC’s landmark WSL broadcasting deal has made the sport more accessible than ever before.
Like most footballers of her generation, Bartup mostly followed the men’s game as she was growing up though, as a striker, she took a particular shine to Arsenal and England star Kelly Smith.
In 2021, Bartup now relishes the chance to offer herself as an aspirational figure to the eager young fans filling the stands at the Global Stadium.
“There are little girls who play my position looking up to me, and wanting to be like me when they grow up,” Bartup said. “It makes you want to play well, and particularly as a striker, it makes me want to score goals.”
“If I can go out and perform for them, and be a little bit of a role model to them, then it means more than anything to me.”
“Myself and a lot of girls hover around at the end of the game and make sure we give them our time and effort, to show that we appreciate their support and include them as much as we can.”
The sight of young fans queueing up to take penalties on the pitch, crowding the players with hand-drawn pictures and requests of autographs and photos has become commonplace at the Global Stadium this season.
“It’s lovely,” Bartup said, recounting the tale of one mother who sent her a picture of a Leeds kit adorned with her name and number made up for her daughter, her “number one fan,” “little things like that just make your day.”
With 13 games still to play, table-topping Leeds won’t be counting their chickens just yet, but there is a keen desire among the Whites camp for the players to repay the support shown to them so far.
“We've got one aim,” Bartup said. “Hopefully we'll achieve the goal that we’ve set and lift the trophy come the end of the season.”
“It’d mean everything.”
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