Seated alongside Emma Hayes at Chelsea’s Cobham Training Ground on Wednesday afternoon, Sam Kerr offered her thoughts on the quality of refereeing in Europe, recovering from injury and the UEFA Women’s Champions League as a whole.
Firstly though, she was asked how she has reacted to the news that Emma Hayes will be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season to take up the esteemed USWNT job left vacant since Vlatko Andonovski’s departure.
‘Obviously we’re sad,’ explained Kerr, ‘she’s a great coach and a great leader that’s been here for so long. But that’s football – I’m in a different position to a lot of the girls, I’ve had many different coaches throughout my career.’
The Australian then spoke of the UEFA Women’s Champions League format, and Chelsea’s mentality as they approach each game. She denied that last week’s controversial draw in Madrid adds pressure, instead insisting that the players ‘don’t think about must-wins’.Embed from Getty Images
‘I think the Champions League is obviously really tough, you play different opponents every week but for us, we don’t think like that [dropped points etc]. We go into every game wanting to win, especially at home – obviously we have a lot of respect for every team in our group but when we go out, we expect to win.’
‘I don’t think about must-wins or anything like that, I’m just thinking about performing and I know we only tied against [Real] Madrid away but I think last time we played them in the group, our away point was an important point. Come the end of the group, that point will probably be a really important one again so you have to play every game as it comes. You can’t focus on the future or the past in the Champions League.’
The draw against Real Madrid was particularly controversial because of questionable refereeing decisions, including a goal flagged for offside after Kerr was adjudged to have interfered with play and a penalty awarded to las Blancas despite the foul occurring outside of the box.
But Kerr was in no mood to blame the referees, instead insisting that ‘I’m here to play football. I hate commenting on referees because I think it just becomes tit-for-tat, and I don’t want to get into that.’Embed from Getty Images
‘Of course it’s frustrating, but we’ve moved on from that. It’s Emma and Paul [Green]’s job to deal with those things. As a player, I just try and stay out of those things because like I said, it can become frustrating. I don’t know how to improve it, I don’t know whether I love VAR. I just try to have the best impact I can rather than letting the referees control my emotions.’
Kerr also spoke of her recovery from injury, after missing a length period throughout Australia’s home FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign. She told reporters that she is ‘feeling better’, but admits that ‘it’s been a process, obviously.’
‘I’ve never really, since I’ve been at Chelsea, dealt with an injury or a niggle so it’s been quite frustrating to be honest. I’m used to myself being at such a high fitness level and just being able to back up game after game. I definitely feel like I’m on the up now but I’m still not at my peak. It’s been a bit of a challenge but I feel like I’ve turned the corner now and I’m on the up.’