Emma Hayes wants to ‘make it a good ending and a good beginning for someone’ when she leaves Chelsea in the summer

The reigning champions of the Barclays Women’s Super League, Chelsea, will take on Manchester United on January 21st in their first league fixture after the winter break. It is set to be a highly anticipated clash, since the last time the two sides met was in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final in May. Sam Kerr’s strike gave the Blues a 1-0 victory, seeing them lift the trophy for the sixth time, with Chelsea rubbing more salt in the wound on the final day of the season as they beat the Red Devils to the league title too.

On Thursday afternoon, Emma Hayes previewed the upcoming league match, speaking to the media in the club’s official press conference saying: ‘I think we’ve had a really good training week.’

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When asked about her expectations of her side returning to form after a couple of weeks away from the WSL, she replied: ‘I hope so but I don’t think of it like that, like you just need a bit of momentum. Sometimes when you get a break like that it takes a couple of weeks […] it’ll be the same for Manchester United, it’s not just about us, it just takes a couple of weeks and a couple of games just to get your rhythm again.’

Manchester United currently sit 4th in the Women’s Super League, seven points behind league leaders, Chelsea. Questions as to whether the Red Devils were still in contention for the league spurred Hayes to say: ‘Yes of course. I think they’ve demonstrated that the last couple of years. They know how to stay in that race, and there are still many turns to happen across the rest of the season and you know I think they certainly have more goal threats than they’ve ever had, so again I don’t underestimate Man United and they for sure are in the title race considering you know, the number of players they’ve signed and the quality they’ve got amongst their ranks.’

Turning to look at her own squad, the 47-year-old commented on the depth there is in forward areas, praising Aggie Beever-Jones’ recent performances, stepping up with Sam Kerr out through injury: ‘I think it’s fair to say she’s played in that role very well. She’s come in from the bench, she’s a goal threat, she’s built her way into the team and she’s gaining everything on merit, she really is. She pushes everyday to be where she is.’

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‘There’s still a gap in terms of consistency and that’s to be expected but I think Aggie will play a pivotal role for us in the second half. I say it again, she’s a goal threat, every time she gets into a great area and she always gets a goal scoring opportunity, and I think for those reasons she’s always going to knock on the door to play and she will get the opportunities to play, but equally you win a game over 90+ minutes and I think the role she’s got when teams are a little more stretched out, there’s more space, I think she thrives and comes alive with a little more spaces.’

Hayes was also pleased with new signing, Nathalie Bjorn: ‘She’s settled in so well, she’s a natural leader and very confident in her own abilities. I think what’s helpful is she knows the league, she’s played against every team, she’s prepared to play in the WSL and as I said she’s a player we’ve been looking at for a long time. We felt the time was right given her age and her experience and since she’s come in she’s hit the ground running.’

‘I thought she made a massive impact when she came on the other day against West Ham. She’s had a good training week and of course we’re still adapting to her and vice versa but I don’t think she could have asked for a better start.’

Discussing the January transfer window and whether any new faces will be coming into the dressing room, the Chelsea manager said: ‘I wouldn’t rule it out simply because the window’s open. I think for us as a club we will always look at options. Those decisions aren’t made by me but I would say that whilst the window is open, we will always be considering players.’

When asked about the influx of Asian players being introduced into the league, Hayes replied: ‘I’ve said it many times in many press conferences: I genuinely believe sometimes we give the rest of the league a ball pass. Everybody’s got a good budget, everybody’s got a professional outfit, everybody’s got the ability to beat everybody.’

‘It’s not like there are any amateur teams here so you’ve got to expect that whether you’re Leicester, whether you’re West Ham, you know whether you’re Tottenham – they’re able to attract and recruit the top players from around the world, and I’ve always said it’s a really good thing for the league.’

‘Bringing that diversity into the league, I think just adds to the complexity of every game and the challenges of every game because it is really really different say going up and playing against [Riko] Ueki, for example, versus playing a Rach Daly, and you’re dealing with very very different situations which I think only helps players improve, so it is of no surprise to me. I’m a big fan of the Asian market.’

In other news, we will not be seeing Millie Bright back on the pitch at the weekend: ‘No, no chance. Do I think it will be before the international break? No, I don’t.’

Following The Best FIFA Football Awards earlier this week, it was announced that Sarina Wiegman will be extending her stay as England manager. Hayes commented: ‘Of course I’m happy for her, it’s a great contract, leading England to the World Cup, and I hope to see her there.’

‘She’s done an incredible job, incredible manager, she’s deserving of where she is and what she’s got.’

‘I think it’s a smart move from England, and you know England know they’ve got a top top manager there, and I think stability is important so England are in a stable position going forward.’

‘We are competitors and I’m sure when it’s time to go up against each other, it will be fun. In the meantime, we have to get everything right so we can get the England players at Chelsea right for her so she can prepare her team for the internationals.’

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Attention was then turned to Hayes’ imminent departure from Chelsea, with reporters asking her if she’s trying to appreciate moments like playing at Stamford Bridge in what is set to be a big WSL clash, now that those opportunities are running out

‘It’s another game,’ said Hayes, going on to add that ‘I’m always really mindful and very present as a human being so I don’t get sort of, I don’t get too far ahead of anything or I don’t get stuck in the past. I’m really good at just being grateful and I’m sure that will be the case again at the weekend and though I know this big clock keeps winding down, at least in terms of what everybody says to me, I for one am not thinking about it.’

Talking about her successor, she said: ‘Again I should probably say that it is [a strange time], but it isn’t because I think the club have been given the right amount of time to get that appointment right, and as I’ve said all along my job is to support and make sure that when that decision is taken, I can be as helpful as possible for whomever might come in here. Believe it or not […] I cope with change really well.’

‘I think it’s good for the players, they’re going to get a new voice, it’s good for someone who’s coming into such a great dressing room, it’s good for me to be able to be challenged and pushed.’

‘Things don’t always have to end in a difficult way so let’s make, make it a good ending and a good beginning for someone, and I’ve always envisaged that moment when I will pass the baton on, and I’ve always thought about it, regularly, what it would look like, so I think I’ve already done that personal work to make sure that I’m as open and as accessible and as, you know, happy for whoever that may be, and hopefully they’ll let me come back and watch a game or two when I’m in town.’