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Emma Hayes changes the game

Emma Hayes changes the game


Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes has changed the perception of what it means to be a woman in football in recent years. How has she done it?


Chloe Beresford: Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today, Emma Hayes, the elite Coach changing perceptions of women in football.


“I kind of feel like with Emma, gender is quite irrelevant because she is just brilliant in her own right. I’ve worked with her quite a lot on Sky, and she’s come in and done punditry for us as well, and I’m always really impressed by her and I really enjoy listening to her and erm… Off screen as well, listen to the way that she has a real forensic fascination with tactics, with all that sort of stuff behind closed doors between her and her players. And I just always find that quite interesting to listen to.”

Laura Woods, talkSPORT

It seems like Emma Hayes was always destined to do something important in football. 

Her sister would sing the Chelsea anthem “Blue is the Colour” to her from the age of one, and as soon as Emma could walk, she had a ball at her feet. 

Growing up, she studied the best teams in the game. Brian Clough’s legendary double European cup win as Nottingham Forest manager made a huge impression on her. 

Emma is an example of how, in order to be truly successful in any field, you need to be obsessed, almost consumed with enthusiasm for it. 

But you need talent, and resilience too. Her sister says that Emma showed real intelligence as well as a true passion for football, and helped to build their Dad’s family business after an injury brought her playing career to a premature end. 

And this summer, the general public saw just how accomplished Emma Hayes really is.

“I think it was because of Modric’s position. I think he started high in the first half and almost as a second striker, but actually, as he started to drift a little bit lower, I felt that England then struggled a little bit to get pressure on the ball with him. Because he’s that type of player – both of you said it – he needs a yard, half a second, and his quality in possession is so outstanding that you have to nullify him and I thought in the second half, that’s what England did, they nullified and played Mase higher along with Phillips and I think they started to build [Croatia] in the second half, there was much better pressure in the midfield.”

Emma Hayes, ITV Sport

Her detailed tactical analysis during the Euros took co-commentary to another level. 

Fellow pundit Ian Wright said that she was “feeding us insight and knowledge” and that she was “elite”. 

And it’s really hard to argue with that. 

It’s not just the depth of her knowledge of the game, but her leadership skills too. 

Emma Hayes was appointed Chelsea Women’s manager in 2012, and recognises that there are extra things that need to be taken into account with female players. “She believes that the best psychologist is the Coach”.

She’s studied menstrual cycles and the effects of pregnancy on the body so that she can turn her players into elite athletes. 

She takes time to understand the individual issues of each player, and calls her group “mentality monsters”. 

Emma Hayes is there to increase the mental resilience of every one of them. 

And she understands from personal experience that life can throw up the most unexpected of circumstances, having sadly lost one of her twins while 28 weeks pregnant in 2018.

She’s taken Chelsea women’s team to what they are today from a part-time club playing in front of what the chairman says was “100 people and a dog.” In her first season nine years ago, Chelsea finished third from bottom of the Women’s Super League. 

Since then, they’ve won four WSL titles and were Women’s Champions League runners-up last season.

Ian Wright: “You’ve got some awesome players, talent.

Emma Hayes: “Great people though, Ian.”

Ian Wright: “Yes.”

Emma Hayes: “That’s the main thing, you know, because I’ve got a lot of top players sat on the bench and that’s not easy. But they’re top people, and they understand what the team is all about. They put the team first. And you know how hard that is, to find players to do that. So we’ll, like for me, when I win awards like this it’s because of them, because of the people they are. And I’m grateful for that.”

Ian Wright: “Listen, it’s been a magnificent season for you, and I can only congratulate you. You’re someone I admire immensely. Your team is great, yes, but you’ve got to take some of the love, so congratulations Emma, on being Barclays Manager of the Season.

Emma Hayes: “I appreciate it, even though you’re a gooner!”


With such experience and expertise, Emma Hayes has been linked with vacant manager roles at Football League clubs in the men’s game, for example at AFC Wimbledon. 

But she’s rejected those suggestions out of hand and says she finds it “insulting” that others regard a position in the men’s game as a step up. When asked if Wimbledon could afford her, she replied “absolutely not!”

And before women are given head coaching jobs in the men’s game, there’s still some way to go yet, even in the Women’s Super League. 

Only five from 12 of the teams due to start the new season have a female boss. 

When you look at the US, the last NFL Superbowl had female Coaches on both of the opposing teams, while there are fourteen women that coach basketball to men in the NBA.

But Emma Hayes doesn’t need to go over to the men’s game to prove that she has what it takes. 

Her stint on TV during the Euros showed the nation that she has encyclopedic knowledge as a tactician and her players regularly go on record to say that she’s just brilliant to work for. 

What she ultimately provides is a beacon of light to follow for women who want to be involved in the game. This summer she has single handedly changed so many perceptions of women in football.

Today’s episode was written by me Chloe Beresford and produced by Klong.