The Chelsea Women’s manager, Emma Hayes, will leave the club at the end of the season. While her next move has not yet been announced she is widely considered a frontrunner for the vacant USA head coach role. The surprise news came via the club shortly after Chelsea’s emphatic 6-0 win against Aston Villa in the WSL.
Hayes is widely regarded as one of the most influential managers in the women’s game. Her 12-year tenure at Chelsea has brought unprecedented success. After taking the job in 2012, she can be credited with transforming the club’s fortunes, building a winning structure on and off the pitch.
Over more than a decade, she has led her team to six WSL titles, five Women’s FA Cups, two Continental Cups, the Spring Series, a Community Shield victory and a Champions League final. Individually, her honours list is equally extensive. She was awarded an MBE and OBE in 2016 and 2022 respectively, while she was named the Best Fifa women’s football coach in 2021 and the WSL manager of the season on six occasions. In recent years she has also moved into commentary and punditry, and picked up several awards for her work covering the men’s Euros for ITV in 2021.
Hayes has been responsible for the coaching and development of some of the best talent in the women’s game. From securing the signature of Fran Kirby in 2015 to the arrivals of household names such as Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder, she has built a stable, ruthless dynasty at Chelsea that has perfected the art of winning on a domestic level.
Chelsea go top after thrashing Aston Villa 6-0 in WSL
Aston Villa’s problems deepened significantly as they sunk to a 6-0 defeat against Chelsea on a miserable afternoon in Walsall. First half strikes from Millie Bright and Fran Kirby set the current champions on their way. Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Ashley Lawrence, Aggie Beever-Jones and Niamh Charles added goals in the second to secure an emphatic victory.
Hayes, who will leave Chelsea at the end of the season, was hampered in her selection by the late finishing of the international break. With Sam Kerr on the bench after a long trip back from Australia, there was a starting place for Mia Fishel, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Jessie Fleming and Erin Cuthbert.
As Villa sat deep, Hayes’ side grew in confidence and a breakthrough was inevitable. Lackadaisical defending from Lehmann allowed Chelsea a corner. The initial header from Mia Fishel was cleared brilliantly off the line by Daly but with Villa’s defence static, Bright was on hand at the far post. It was the perfect way to mark her 250th appearance in a Blues shirt.
Chelsea’s second followed not long after with Kirby finally adding her name to the team sheet. Her initial shot was blocked off the line by Danielle Turner but came straight back to her to squeeze home. She almost had another just before the break, only to be denied by Van Domselaar once more.
The danger of chasing a game is that one is always left susceptible at the back, especially with the pace of Chelsea’s forwards. With Turner losing possession in the middle, Rytting Kaneryd took off from the halfway line, leaving the defence in her wake, and made no mistake with her finish.
Hayes rang the changes, but it had no disruption on the visitors’ flow. A turnover of possession once again saw Fleming find Lawrence to tap home for her first Chelsea goal. Another substitute, academy graduate Beever-Jones, produced a cool finish for the visitors’ fifth before the brilliant Charles rounded off the scoring.
It was a victory that returned Chelsea to the top of the table ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures. For Villa, however, huge questions remain, not only on how they recover from this poor run of form but also whether their manager Ward can survive. Sophie Downey
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“Emma has been one of the biggest drivers of change in women’s football,” Chelsea’s co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said. “Her achievements at Chelsea are unrivalled and will live in the club’s history for ever.
“Given everything she has contributed to Chelsea in over a decade with the club, and the legacy she leaves behind, we would never stand in her way when she felt it was the right time to pursue a new challenge.”
Chelsea’s chairman, Todd Boehly, and co-owner Behdad Eghbali added: “Emma’s contribution to Chelsea cannot be understated. She has been a pioneer in women’s football and is hugely respected within the game. We look forward to continuing to work together over the coming months.”
Chelsea remain unbeaten after five WSL games in this campaign as they and Hayes look to chase their fifth successive title. So the timing of the announcement was surprising with so much of the season left to play.
However, in the context of Hayes and her career, it may not actually be wholly unexpected. She underwent an emergency hysterectomy due to endometriosis at the start of last season and has often talked about wanting a better work-life balance to spend more time with her son, Harry. The death of her father in the early weeks of this campaign has also had an impact. Add to that, the length of her time at Chelsea and new challenges would inevitably arise.
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Hayes’ next move remains unclear but it is expected that an international coaching role will be a likely next step, especially with a number of high-profile roles open. Legacy is a word often thrown around in football and it is something that is intrinsically difficult to measure.
However there is no doubt that the imprint Hayes has left on the women’s domestic game in England and her club Chelsea is just that. It is fitting that Hayes will be able to say goodbye on her own terms and that Chelsea and her loyal fans can bid her a proper farewell.