Emma Hayes: Chelsea boss says 'time is right' to move on from club after 12 years

Emma Hayes with the Women's Super League trophy
Hayes has guided Chelsea to six Women's Super League titles, five FA Cups and two League Cups

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes says leaving the club is a day she "never really wanted to see come" but that the "time is right" for her to move on.

Hayes was speaking to the media on Friday for the first time since Saturday's announcement that she would leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

"I've taken this team to the top and I always said I wanted to leave at the top, I maintain that," she said.

Hayes has guided Chelsea to 13 major trophies during her 12-year tenure.

The 47-year-old would not comment on reports that she is close to being named manager of the United States Women's team, adding that her "focus" lies with Chelsea until the end of the campaign.

"You dedicate so many hours to this job and I've given it everything I can," added Hayes.

"I've had to evaluate that and factor it in. Anything I'm going to do, I want to do it well, but maybe it's about just having something different more than anything else.

"I would struggle going backwards at any point or out-staying my welcome. Those things plague me.

"It's not actually an easy thing to do to leave at the top with a world-class team, but I always made the promise to myself that I would do that."

Hayes added that it is important to her to create a "succession plan" for the new manager to ensure the club can maintain its status at the top of English domestic women's football.

"The time is right but I will do everything I can to make sure there is as good as transition as possible so my successor can have the same level of success as I can," she said.

Reports this week have suggested that Chelsea had not prioritised contract negotiations with Hayes and that had contributed to her decision to leave.

"I believe in private conversations. Of course I'm disappointed to hear things are being said in the press," she said.

"I want to make sure I maintain my own professionalism in everything I do. As far as I'm concerned, the people I have worked with in that period have made me feel the best coach I can feel. That's not always easy when you're dropping players and they are not playing week-in, week-out.

"I leave at the end of the season knowing I have given everything and have done everything.

"Things and conversations that are private between myself and the club will remain private at my end. I will maintain that."

Hayes said she had told her players just before the news was announced, following their 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa, adding that they shared some hugs and ultimately "respect" her decision.

'This is a selfless decision'

Hayes has a five-year-old son and has cited family time and the strain on her as an important factor in making the decision to leave Chelsea.

"I've been in the post for 12 years and I've dedicated my life to this place," she said. "I drive four hours to and from this place 6 days a week for 12 years. I have a five-year-old that needs more of his mummy, for sure.

"I'm a mum and not many football managers sit up here and talk about that in the same way."

Hayes added that the travel that comes with the success of a club like Chelsea - away fixtures up and down the country in the WSL, as well as cup competitions and travel abroad for European fixtures - can put a strain on family life.

"My little boy has been extraordinary to allow me to do this, but it's important for him," she added.

"There's still a lot of work that needs to be done in the women's game for people with children. I shouldn't just limit that - it's people with children. We have lives and I have to think about others.

"This is not a selfish decision, it's a selfless decision. It's about putting first other things in my life and I'm ready for that."

Hayes 'played part' in growth of women's game

The announcement of Hayes' departure has sparked widespread praise for the manager with many pundits and players hailing her as one of the most influential coaches to ever work in the women's game.

She has been a driving force in improving the quality of pitches as well as encouraging research around female athlete health and calling for more equality between the men's and women's game.

"There's many people that have made sure we amplify that voice," she said. "Collectively, we have applied pressure, challenged and raised standards.

"Everyone who has worked with me or for me, knows I have only ever had the game's best interests at heart. I love the women's game.

"I know my personality and I'm not afraid to do the tough things even though sometimes I'm the one who takes the battering from it.

"I'm alright with that…whether that's getting more prize money or to get better facilities - I still think there's ways to go - but I've played my part. I accept that role and I'm grateful for all those people who have done the same."

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