Olivia Smart’s so proud to be a player and fan of Leeds United

“I take full advantage of it, to be honest, I do wear my United kit most of the time, everywhere I go,” said Leeds United Women’s Olivia Smart, a lifelong fan of the club she plays for.

Saturday, 5th December 2020, 5:55 am
Leeds United Women’s player Olivia Smart took part in the Adidas promotional campaign for the 2020/21 kit. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Smart began her football career aged seven, joining her village’s boys team after her dad coaxed her and her twin sister into team sports with regular kickabouts.

Aged 10, they were both scouted by Leeds United, and 26-year-old Smart has played there ever since.

The full-back is proud that her grandparents watch her playing in the colours of the family team. She said: “Being a Leeds fan, I don’t think I ever questioned wanting to go anywhere else.”

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Leeds United's Jamie Shackleton left, and Leeds United Women's player Olivia Smart both have the same hometown of Kippax. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

“It’s a very close-knit community,” she added of Kippax, her hometown, which she shares with men’s midfielder Jamie Shackleton. “There’s a lot of pride in the Leeds badge as well – I think I’d get too much stick if I moved to another team.”

But Smart, who works as a nurse for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, wouldn’t want to anyway.

She counts herself “very lucky” to wear the shirt, and boasts experiences like waving the Champions League flag at the semi-final against Valencia at Elland Road in 2001 and starring in Adidas’ promotional campaign for the 2020-21 kit launch.

“There’s pictures of me everywhere,” she said. “One of my friends went to JD Sports in Leeds and saw my picture in there, I think that was the weirdest. Either that or the time I drove past Elland Road and saw myself in my rear-view mirror.”

Though not without perks, being both a player and a fan is not as straightforward as you might imagine; fiercely loyal to her club and deeply invested in its success, Smart feels great responsibility alongside the joy in wearing white. She said: “I think it does add a lot of pressure.

“When you’re passionate about the club, you just want it to do well, and when you’re the people that affect whether it does well or not, it’s pressure.

“It’s hard to deal with the fact that we’re not doing as well as we once did – especially for those that are long-serving.”

From a top-flight team boasting the likes of Steph Houghton and Carly Telford, to the loss of the badge, funding and club support during Massimo Cellino’s tenure at Elland Road, Smart has witnessed the full spectrum of the Whites’ changing fortunes in her 16 years with the side.

“It’s been through some bad times in its history,” she added.

“But I think the people that have been involved – the committee, the managerial side of things, the foundation – they’ve always been loyal to keeping the club alive.

“It’s a testament to them that people like me – there’s a number of girls who have been at the club quite a while – have stayed around for so long.”

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