As Chelsea announced Emma Hayes’ new deal with the club, the sound of Blues fans collectively letting out a sigh of relief could be heard for miles. Nine years in, Hayes’ success as a manager is unparalleled in the Women’s Super League.
Chelsea’s trophy cabinet, whilst a credit to the club’s huge signings and investment, owes much to the dedication and heart of the beloved boss.
Despite her own career as a player ending prematurely due to injury, Hayes’ biggest weapon is her football brain. She is known for often playing her cards close to her chest – rarely giving too much away in match interviews. But her insight into the game is undoubtedly world-class – just look at the popularity of her recent spell of punditry in the 2020 Euro.
Was it fate?
In a recent Guardian feature on Hayes’ career, she joked that a medium once told her that choosing between jobs with Chicago Red Stars and St Louis Athletica back in 2007 would not matter, because “she would have her main success at Chelsea.”
Hayes and Chelsea are a dream combination. You have a manager with immense goals and professionalism, and a club willing to put the money and infrastructure behind her.Embed from Getty Images
Off the pitch, Hayes is also championed by her players for the level of care and emotional support she provides the team. Fran Kirby, who missed most of the 2019/20 season due to a debilitating heart condition, said: “Emma’s been incredible. She’s been my rock; the person who made sure I was protected from everything.”
It’s clear that beyond football, good relationships and a positive working environment are paramount, enabling everyone to perform on the pitch.
So what’s next for Hayes and Chelsea? It’s clear her eyes are still firmly on the European prize.
The loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final was a devastating one. After so much domestic success, Hayes’ squad finally reached a mountain they were not yet ready to climb to the top.
Despite the crushing end, Hayes seems only more determined to come back stronger. The recent signing of Aniek Nouwen from the Netherlands shows an intent to patch some of the holes in the squad. Reinforcing the defence will be essential in contending for both domestic and European trophies in the year ahead.
Hayes’ tenth year could be her biggest year yet, with the club vying for their fifth league title and third consecutive win. This year’s FA Cup is also still to play for, which would wrap up a domestic quadruple for the 2020/21 season.
The Champions League season ahead will be no easy ride, but with Hayes in the driving seat, the Blues are not short on fuel. Hayes’ devotion to the club is clear and her European dream seems sure to become reality sooner rather than later.