How Emma Hayes led Chelsea to WSL dominance over 10 years


In August 2012, Emma Hayes stepped off a train and arrived at a club about to finish third bottom of the Women’s Super League.

Two of Chelsea’s three wins that season came against teams below them, Doncaster and Liverpool. Hayes’ initial challenges were finding offices to work with and footballs to work with.

“When there’s nothing there, you have to put everything in,” Hayes, 45, told BBC Sport.

“Having nothing to start with made things very, very difficult because very few people had to do a lot of work at the beginning. That was tough.”

Chelsea had reached the FA Cup final the season before he joined, and had previously been through normal time, extra time and penalties. eventually lost to Birmingham.

But Hayes felt his place in the bottom two as he finished his first full season in charge, four points clear of relegation, reflecting his talent at the part-time side.

“We did very well, considering how far behind we were,” he says.

“I don’t want to remember. All my attention was off the pitch, putting the infrastructure in place. That was all I was interested in.”

Hayes also had a job in financial services during that time, building on the polymath and broad vision he developed during his first 11 years in the game.

He served as Arsenal’s assistant, first-team coach and academy director, taking part in the team. She won the 2006-07 Women’s Champions League – Back then known as the Uefa Women’s Cup – by famous Gunners manager Vic Akers.

At the age of 31, Hayes turned down the chance to replace Vic Akers as Arsenal manager as he did not feel he would be sufficiently challenged, instead moving to the United States.

Before joining Chelsea, he built the Western New York Flash, a team based in the USA, as their technical director.

“I’d come from America, where I trained at a high level, so it was a step back for me,” he says. “I had to change my mindset to realize there was a lot of work to do.

“It takes at least two seasons to get a team that represents what you want it to be.”

Consistency – a word Hayes returns to again and again – apart from scoring against Chelsea and changing the team’s long-ball style, was one of his priorities during his slow-burn early seasons.

Emma Hayes
A 2-0 defeat at Sincil Bank saw Chelsea finish the 2013 WSL season below third-bottom Lincoln.

Unlike those clubs looking for instant success through big investments, Hayes targeted free agents and focused on a sustainable approach that would last.

Hayes describes then-Bundesliga top scorer Yuki Ogimi, signed in 2013, and legendary Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl as “key” to helping transform the club’s professionalism and global image.

A only the defeat of the last day He denied Chelsea the title in 2014. They had the great consolation of reaching the Champions League for the first time, and Hayes’ sharp signings led to the league title and FA Cup glory the following year.

Ji So-yun and Emma Hayes
Ji So-yun was one of Hayes’ key signings for Chelsea, scoring 68 goals in 208 games between 2014 and 2022.

England internationals and WSL champions Katie Chapman and Gilly Flaherty, who Hayes knew from his Arsenal days, were also instrumental to the club’s all-time leading goalscorer and assist player Ji So-yun and Fran Kirby. provider, to choose Chelsea.

“People don’t realize when we won the double in 2015 I was working part-time,” says Hayes. “A lot of players were part-time, a lot of staff were part-time. We didn’t have much more resources than we did two or three years ago.”

Chelsea have won the league and FA Cup three times since then, Adding the League Cup in 2021 for a memorable treble.

Sam Kerr and Emma Hayes
Sam Kerr has been the WSL’s top scorer in both of his campaigns with Chelsea and was named player of the season for the 2021-22 season.

Having seen the profiles of his star players blossom alongside the sport, Hayes is just as interested in the business side of football as he is in his coaching sessions.

“I’m probably one of the few people who was doing it when no one else was, so I enjoy winning as much as growing the game,” he says, noting the cost. The opening of Stamford Bridge should almost fill the house. His team’s current home is Kingsmeadow, which has a capacity of around 4,000.

“I have been playing women’s football for a long time. I liked to watch England won the European Cup, any sold-out stadium, turn on the TV and watch Manchester City against Manchester United. He looks good when he’s at Old Trafford.”

A banner by Emma Hayes
Chelsea are seeking a fourth WSL title in 2022-23 and remain favorites to win the Champions League for the first time.

But, 10 years on from being appointed manager of Chelsea Ladies (as the team was then known), Hayes is in no mood to dwell on the past.

“10 years ago, what were you doing 10 years ago and do you remember that?” he asks.

“My concern is how I get to a place, not how I feel when I’m there, let alone when we win.

“I’ll be honest with you – every time we win, I feel relief and I’m glad it’s over. I love my job, but it takes its toll.

“I always knew we would succeed. I know who I am and I’m confident in that.

“I’ve always felt that I’m here for a reason. And that reason, beyond building a club, was to win trophies.”