Henderson being an ally means the world

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Premier League captains wore rainbow armbands over the weekend

You’ll never walk alone. A song of such importance to Liverpool supporters but four words that have never felt more powerful for Reds fan Keith Spooner.

He read them in a tweet, replying to one of his own, from Jordan Henderson.

Prior to Liverpool’s victory over Wolves on Sunday, the Reds’ captain had posted a photo of the rainbow armband he would be wearing in support of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.

For Spooner, who came out as gay at the age of 17 after struggling with his sexuality throughout his teenage years, it “meant the world”. He told Henderson just that, but was “completely caught off-guard” when the skipper replied.

“You’ll never walk alone Keith. If wearing the #RainbowLaces armband helps even just one person then it’s progress. Everyone is welcome at Liverpool Football Club,” he said.

The tweet has amassed more than 2,000 retweets and almost 30,000 likes. It’s the “brilliant” exposure for young LGBT people like Spooner that he has long wanted to see.

“It means the world to me,” the 24-year-old from Dublin told BBC Sport. “I wish I had had the opportunity to see these things when I was younger in my teenage years, it’s going to be great for young people who are feeling a bit unsure about themselves to see that.

“It’s difficult enough in sport for young gay people like myself, so to have allies and to look up to people like Jordan, who took time to read my comment and come back, it means a lot.”

The Rainbow Laces campaign aims to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes in sport.

Between 4-13 December, Premier League clubs are celebrating the latest campaign and showing support for LGBT people in football in numerous ways, including Rainbow Laces ball plinths, substitutes boards and captains’ armbands.

Spooner is a “big fan” of the campaign and the work of LGBT charity Stonewall.

He quit playing football at the age of 19, two years after coming out. Despite the support of his team-mates, Spooner no longer felt comfortable in that environment.

But he now feels ready to return to the pitch, such has been the impact of the Rainbow Laces campaign and that of Henderson’s tweet.

“It’s definitely going to make people feel more comfortable, people like myself who gave up playing football a while ago because of the attention I would bring to myself,” he said.

“I was really lucky that I had really supportive team-mates and family and friends. But all the attention around being gay and being the only gay person on the team was difficult, I couldn’t cope.

“But when I see stuff that Jordan has been coming out and saying, I want to get back involved and start playing again.

“It’s something I have missed for the last couple of years. I’d like to feel secure and safe when I go back to playing and stuff like this is really going to make that easier for young people like myself.”

Keith Spooner
Liverpool fan Keith Spooner at Anfield

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