It was in February when Emma Hayes was asked if she was interested in accepting the newly vacant position at AFC Wimbledon.
Did the Chelsea Women’s boss want to be the first female manager in the men’s game?
Or, to put it another way, she felt like quitting her job as leader of the nation’s top women’s team, coaching the best players, winning titles and making history for a chance to win a club in nine to keep defeats in League One.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes (above) is often referred to as ‘the female Brian Clough’
The answer, which may not scare you, was no. It was “an insult” to women’s football to paint such an opportunity as a jump, she said. Not to mention she was adamant that AFC Wimbledon couldn’t afford her.
“I don’t know why anyone would think that women’s football is a step back from the men’s game,” she said. ‘The football world needs to wake up. Although the game is played by a different gender, it is exactly the same sport. ‘
And why should she? A day after AFC Wimbledon survived their second-to-last league game of the season despite defeat, Hayes’ Chelsea sent Bayern Munich 4-1 to overtake a deficit in the first leg and became only the second England team to win the final of the Women’s Champions League. A week later, they retained the Women’s Super League title.
Tonight they face Barcelona to become European champions. Victory would represent their third trophy of the season after the League Cup and the title.
Hayes declined the opportunity to take charge of League One AFC Wimbledon in February
They also have the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Hayes has a chance of accomplishing something not even Pep Guardiola could do this season. Something her father’s hero, Brian Clough, never did. Win the quadruple.
What makes Hayes one of the best coaches in the world? She is open-hearted, or as she prefers to call it, “honest.” She is a master tactician. A video of her barking instructions against Chelsea players Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder during their Wolfsburg win recently went viral. Hayes can be heard telling Kerr to ‘do the double press’ while telling Harder to continue ‘on the field because of the high full backs’. It is a coaching master class.
But perhaps most importantly, it is her ability to inspire. Like all great coaches, it is capable of motivating anyone, be it a regular first team player or a team player who feels they should be more. The ability to keep them all engaged, to know their importance and to make them feel like a valued member of something greater than themselves. Hayes shows her team motivational videos of other sports stars leading up to matches, be it Michael Jordan or UFC fighter Rose Namajunas – or even of a flock of geese flying in a V formation to explain how they each get a roll. play, each supporting others to allow them to continue flying.
Hayes has won the WSL title and League Cup – now she’s chasing Champions League glory
‘She’s really motivating,’ said Harder, who became the world’s most expensive women’s player when Chelsea signed her for £ 250,000 in the summer.
She has these motivational videos for the competitions to try and give us inspiration from other people from other sports, which is really cool.
It’s really different, it could be anything – Michael Jordan, people in Esports, a geese video, a boxer. What the videos tell us is how champions are made and the mindset of it. It is good to be inspired by people in other sports. ‘
And it works. Hayes has won four WSL titles, two FA Cups and two League Cups in eight and a half years at the helm.
“It’s a team where everyone gives something to the team,” says Harder. ‘We all work together during training, off the field, on the field. That’s why we’ve been so successful. ‘
Hayes shows her team motivational videos of other sports stars leading up to competitions
Hayes learned the importance of team building and culture from Vic Akers, the former Arsenal kit man and women’s team manager who won 11 league titles between 1992 and 2009.
Under Akers, Arsenal became the first English club to reach the final of the Women’s Champions League in 2007. And it won. Hayes was his assistant.
Their Champions League victory was part of the same quadruple that Hayes could match.
Akers tells The Mail on Sunday: ‘Emma invited me to watch them train and I had the same feeling of watching them as I did with my team. They all worked hard, trained hard with a smile on their faces.
‘She is very thorough in everything she does. She has always been very confident and good at her job and is arguably the best female coach in women’s football. It is a long wait for another English team in the final. I don’t see them losing. ‘