Above: Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes. Photo: Sky Sports.
Ahead of tomorrow’s Conti Cup Final, Impetus’ Kieran Yap heard from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes and captain Millie Bright (4/3/22).
As Chelsea prepare to face Manchester City in Saturday’s Conti Cup Final, Emma Hayes and her players are remaining focused on football despite the changes involving the club.
High-profile Russian owner Roman Abramovic is selling the club and has stepped away from day-to-day operations. Hayes was reluctant to comment on any issue beyond her control and was at pains to point out that whatever turmoil might be engulfing Chelsea, it is nothing compared to what Ukrainians face.
Chelsea entered the Conti Cup at the quarter-final stage as a Champions League side and have beaten West Ham United and Manchester United en route to the final. They face constant rivals Manchester City in tomorrow’s decider at AFC Wimbledon’s Plough Lane Stadium. It is an encounter that Hayes always looks forward to.
“Honestly it don’t take me a lot to get excited anyway,” she said with a laugh.
“As long as I’ve had a good night’s sleep I’m always pretty cheery. I think, when it comes to playing City, I just love these games. I know every manager enjoys certain types of games. I particularly like the Man City games.
“I really believe that Man City particularly love the games against us. This is a game that both teams love to play. Because in the last six, seven years in particular its been so closely contested, there’s been zero to separate us.”
The Chelsea manager reaffirmed her respect for the City, and referred to the close relationship the clubs have formed in promoting the women’s game as relative newcomers.
Manchester City were runners-up in the FAWSL to Chelsea last season, and they started the current league campaign poorly. However, their form has improved greatly since January as injured players returned and Gareth Taylor’s squad reached something close to full strength.
Hayes said that although it is a cup final, she will not be treating the game in isolation.
“Always, I treat every opponent differently. I don’t repeat the same strategy. Even if we were playing a few weeks ago, I look at that game and what we can learn from that and take that forward.
“A lot of thinking time, a lot of work behind the scene analyzing but that’s the best part of the job.”
The Chelsea manager is on the verge of three consecutive Conti Cup wins. Midweek she was recognized at the London Football awards along with striker Sam Kerr.
As usual, Hayes was full of praise for her team’s best attacking weapon.
“What I know with Sam is she’s just built for these games. She’s built for these moments she enjoys them. She thrives on responsibility for the team and I think that any player that gets off a plane, coming from India, and having played for her country (then) makes herself available in a day and a half, her body might be hanging off… I always say Sam Kerr is the ultimate team player. She give will give anything so the team is successful.”
Along with their high-profile attack, Chelsea has another not-so-secret weapon.
Defender, Millie Bright won the Golden Boot for England at the Arnold Cup and joked that Hayes wondered where that scoring ability was while at Chelsea.
“I did actually come back and she was like ‘if only you could do that for us.’
“It’s a running joke. It’s something that I’ve wanted to add to my game for a while, to be ruthless in the opposition box. For me, I want to bring that form back to club, and I’m not fussed who scores.”
For Bright and her teammates, the Conti Cup is no less important than any other opportunity to lift a trophy. The game is set to be a sold-out event with almost 10,000 tickets sold.
“For us, we value every trophy. No matter what the preparation it’s the same. It’s about nailing the game plan, making sure we’re all switched on and ready for tomorrow which we are. We’re in a good position and everyone’s prepared.
“It’s massive, for us it’s another chance to win silverware and continue our development and the journey we’ve been on. It’s a big one, but it’s one that we’re ready for.”
Hayes expects to win against City but acknowledges it will be a tightly contested match. She reiterated that she is a football manager and that remains her focus.
Although there are fast-approaching changes at the top level at the club, Chelsea’s head coach is confident some things will stay the same.
“This is a successful organization and will remain a successful organization. You won’t do that by breaking it up or going backwards. This football club is invested in this women’s team and I expect that to remain long and strong into the future.”
The Conti Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Plough Lane kicks off at 5:15pm and is live on BBC-2.