We’re delighted to have our good friends from the Chelsea Women Supporters Group to open our Advent Calendar with a guest piece discussing Emma Hayes, the iconic manager of Chelsea FC Women.
Emma Hayes: An Introduction
Borrowing from Nike’s clever advert which stated that, “66 was a great year for English football. Eric [Cantona] was born.”, we suggest that 2012 was a great year for Chelsea Football Club. Emma Hayes became manager of its women’s team. Football fans everywhere watched CFC Men win Champions League and FA Cup in that year but very few noticed Emma’s arrival. In terms of lasting impact however, her appointment may prove more significant than those triumphs.
The eight years since Emma joined Chelsea have been a period of real progress for women’s football. It is forcing its way out of the shadows and its leading lights attract more interest. Emma features regularly in articles and podcasts around the globe.
A fact which is about more than that she is Head Coach of a high-profile club with a serious commitment to the Women’s game. Interest in Emma is also about more than that she has won eight trophies in eight years. People take an interest because her views are thoughtful, opinionated, deeply felt, and interesting.
Whether it’s about the size of pitches, goals and balls, about her championing of female-specific training methods in football, about the desirability or otherwise of the Premier League taking control of the WSL, or the scheduling of matches across a season; when Emma speaks it’s worth a listen. When it comes to spreading a love for women’s football, she is highly infectious with an R-rate well above 1.
Chelsea fans don’t need to be told any of this of course. They have a special bond with their team’s head coach. One of them says he has never witnessed a relationship between Stamford Bridge and any manager of the men’s team which matches the warmth, strength, and depth of the affection between Kingsmeadow and Emma Hayes. He should know too. He’s been watching Chelsea men for nearly fifty-years.
Emma generates ‘buy-in’. Every behind the scenes glimpse of her squad at work features smiles and laughter. The group clearly believes in the project they’re involved with and that includes backroom staff and club executives. Emma even reports that Roman Abramovich absolutely loves the women’s team. Emma has everyone singing from the same song sheet. Especially the fans. She shows her approval when they’ve helped the team and she’s not averse to letting supporters know when she needs more from them. They respond without fail.
Emma reflects or perhaps helps to generate, this fair-mindedness. Her passion for Chelsea is evident but so too is her concern for women’s football in general. Interviewed about Chelsea’s recent 1-1 draw with rivals Arsenal, Emma started by insisting that full respect be given to The Gunners for the quality of their performance. She recognised that Arsenal were unlucky not to win and wanted everyone else to recognise it too. Emma’s a winner but she can set her gaze above fray too. The fact that her team would have collected three priceless points if Sam Kerr’s injury-time lob against Arsenal had nestled inside Manuela Zinsberger’s goalpost, instead of drawing a little wide of it, does not phase the coach. It was an agonising miss, but Emma moves on quickly. Live in the present is one of her mantras. What’s done, is done.
Emma Hayes – The Future
It’s no wonder that whenever the England head coach job becomes available, chat on Chelsea Women’s Supporters Group Facebook page turns to ‘don’t go Emma’. They needn’t worry. Emma has made it clear that, for the time being at least, she much prefers club football and believes she has unfinished business at Kingsmeadow.
What might there be left to do? The desire to bring the Champions League to Kingsmeadow is well known but there is also the challenge of living up to her own definition of success. Emma has said that just winning trophies is not enough. She wants to retain them too. Since she took control, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City have monopolised domestic honours with Chelsea’s share being a roughly par for the course one out of every three prizes. Chelsea have never retained any of them however. Emma will want to see what they can do about that.
Could Emma’s club be ready to fully realise the potential she saw when she first walked into Chelsea’s training complex and went through her Elizabeth Bennet moment? Jane Austin’s heroine dated her love for Mr. Darcy to the first time see set eyes on the beautiful grounds at his Pemberley mansion. Similarly, Emma made up her mind that she could not turn Chelsea down when she visited Cobham and understood the statement it made about the scale of Chelsea’s ambition.
Emma Hayes and The Fans
Chelsea followers have a lot to look forward to. The Blues fans are as committed, and as numerous, as any group of fans in the WSL.
They think nothing of taking 3:45 am coaches to away cup games and regularly encounter surprised reactions at how many of them there are when they bump into fans of other clubs at motorway service stations. Every match, they are a terrific resource for Emma and she appreciates them as much as they appreciate her.
If you’ve been to Kingsmeadow or witnessed Emma Hayes’s Blue Army on their travels, you’ll know that they love their team, but they are not blinkered. They know that other WSL managers are also doing great work. Indeed, judging by their social media output, they are enjoying this brilliant WSL season as much as anyone and they are enthusiastic about the progress at clubs around the league.
They are a fair-minded bunch, willing to give credit where it’s due but you’ll never persuade them that anyone does football management better than Emma Hayes.
One small way the fans demonstrate their appreciation of their wonderful coach is by presenting her with a large bar of Galaxy chocolate at the end of every game. Emma says she’s lucky if she gets even a few chunks once her staff get their hands on the bar but, perhaps, she will do better now she’s switched to a vegan diet.
Fortunately, Galaxy does offer a vegan range so whether Emma prefers Salted Caramel or some other flavour is now a burning question for Kingsmeadow’s ‘Galaxy Crew’.
Written by Stan Rodrigues (@bridgejunky) on behalf of Chelsea Women Supporters Group
Keep up with their activities below:
Edited by Rob Pratley