Emma Hayes reflects on Chelsea legacy after 'sweetest' Women's Super League title

Champions again: Emma Hayes bowed out in style (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)
Champions again: Emma Hayes bowed out in style (Martin Rickett/PA Wire)

Emma Hayes reflected on the “sweetest” title triumph of her career after an imperious Chelsea performance in her final match in charge.

The Blues thrashed Manchester United 6-0 at Old Trafford to lift the Women’s Super League trophy for the fifth season in a row, getting the better of Manchester City – who beat Aston Villa on the final day – on goal difference.

It was the dream send-off for Hayes, bringing down the curtain on 12 years and a trophy-laden era at Chelsea, as she now takes charge of the United States women's team. Hayes will fly to New York this week for press conferences to officially mark the next chapter in her career, before travelling to Denver to meet up with her new players.

Only a few weeks ago, Hayes suggested the WSL title race was over after Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool, but they have bounced back imperiously to capitalise on City’s slip-up against Arsenal and be crowned champions for the seventh time.

"I can't say it's my most enjoyable, but it's definitely been the toughest without doubt and for that reason probably the sweetest,” Hayes told Sky Sports. “I'm just so relieved it's over.

Emma Hayes’ side blew Manchester United away to defend their WSL title (AFP via Getty Images)
Emma Hayes’ side blew Manchester United away to defend their WSL title (AFP via Getty Images)

“Great memories, of course. Listening to the fans, the connection with the players, I don’t know... I just haven't got any more to give, I know that much.”

On the defeat to Liverpool earlier this month, she added: “Maybe it’s what we needed. The hardest thing to do is five in a row, because people do take their eye off the ball. People do drop a little bit in their standards. A lot of new players that need to learn the Chelsea standards, they haven’t all had it. The connections haven’t been there in the same way.

“My legacy is winning while building a team for the future. We’ve been brave enough to play a 19-year-old [Maika] Hamano, a 20-year-old Aggie Beever-Jones, because I want to develop players for the future.”

Chelsea were part-time for two years after Hayes arrived in 2012, finishing third- and second-bottom in the WSL, but that was soon a distance memory. The club had won the league and the FA Cup by 2015, and 12 more major trophies have followed since.

With Sir Alex Ferguson among those watching on at Old Trafford as the Blues ensured their manager had a fitting finale, a week on from Manchester United beating Tottenham in the Women’s FA Cup final at a sold-out Wembley, Hayes looked back on the growth she has witnessed in the women’s game.

"To finish here at Old Trafford, I hope to get a glass of wine with Sir Alex in a minute,” Hayes said.

“Everyone told us we couldn't. Everyone said girls can't play, nor can they fill stadiums, nor can they get paid, nor can they create history for themselves.

"Well guess what? Not only are we not going away, but we are going to fill them every week. Women's football now is a serious business and that for me... at the beginning when it was two men and their dog up Staines [Chelsea’s old stadium] and my family as fans, this is what it's about."