Leeds United Women all set for a return to training

Leeds United Women are set to return to training this week for the first time since March.

Friday, 7th August 2020, 5:00 am
Leeds United Women's player of the season Rebecca Hunt.

With five games remaining, Leeds were going toe-to-toe with local rivals Barnsley at the top of the Division One North when the season was abandoned in March.

Both Yorkshire sides were fighting to gain a place in the Northern Premier, the third tier of the women’s pyramid, when the Covid-19 pandemic compelled the FA Women’s National League to announce the cancellation of all competitions, along with relegation and promotion.

With the government giving the green light for competitive grassroots football to begin, activity is starting up again ahead of the new season, which is expected to kick-off in late September, with fixtures yet to be announced. All eyes are on the future at Thorp Arch, where head coach Dan O’Hearne is preparing for a tough competition.

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O’Hearne, who has been at the helm for three years, said: “This season is about winning promotion. It won’t be easy as all teams are strengthening in our league and, with only one promotion place available, the team that wins it really cannot afford too many slip ups.

“The safety of everyone has been paramount in our thoughts at the club so we have not rushed back. The committee are working tremendously hard behind the scenes, as they always do, in preparation for the training sessions to run smoothly.”

Efforts have not eased up during lockdown. Strava and Zoom have helped maintain fitness and morale; across all four squads managers received data from players which indicate that remote running and HIT sessions have paid off.

O’Hearne believes the players returning to train this week are “the strongest squad we have assembled since I took over”.

Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

In February 2017, O’Hearne was introduced to a side threatened by relegation. At the end of that season, Leeds United Women had secured their position in the league, as well as an invitation from the board at Elland Road to reintegrate into the club after 12 years adrift, marking the dawn of a new era of stability.

On his arrival, chairman Andrea Radrizzani made clear his intentions for both the men’s and the women’s sides to compete in the top flight. Indeed, since support for Leeds United Women resumed, the team have gone from strength to strength.

O’Hearne said: “We have a good relationship with the club, especially Angus Kinnear, who is at the forefront of helping the women’s team improve both on and off the pitch. We are well looked after by the club, with the backing they give us and the facilities they can provide to take the project forward.

“We are hoping the men’s team promotion to the Premier League will give everyone at the club a boost and there is a feel-good factor around the club and the city.”