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A dream ending for Emma Hayes as Chelsea secure fifth successive WSL title

Emma Hayes celebrates winning a fifth successive WSL title

Today, Emma Hayes will cook a BBQ.

Yesterday, she led her Chelsea side to a fifth successive WSL title with a resounding 6-0 win over Manchester United in front of 28,737 people at Old Trafford.

In many ways, the donning of the apron for her son’s birthday party marks the start of a new chapter for Emma Hayes the mum, who, like so many women across the world in high-pressure jobs, has had to sacrifice part of herself to allow Emma Hayes the football manger to succeed.

In the wake of the victory Hayes admitted: “I’m so tired, I am absolutely exhausted, I have nothing left to give.”

In her first game as Chelsea boss, Hayes would have been unable to imagine that 12 years later, her final game would see her clinch a sixth WSL title in front of Sir Alex Ferguson and a packed Old Trafford.

But that is exactly how one of the most influential figures in women’s football bows out as she prepares to become the coach of the US Women’s National Team (USWNT), her work complete and the foundations set for her Chelsea to reach new heights.

The road to the final weekend has not been smooth for Chelsea, the twists and turns of a mammoth season competing in four competitions, have clearly had an impact on the experienced Hayes and her young team.

A one nil defeat to rivals Manchester City in February had seen the two teams go neck and neck at the top of the WSL, with neither team willing to blink first.

That was until a hectic fixture schedule saw a tired Chelsea come unstuck at Liverpool in early May, leading to Hayes to concede that her side were unlikely to catch their rivals.

Hayes, sporting a victory t-shirt with the words ‘it’s never over’ emblazoned on it, said: “I can tell you, if we had been in City’s position, had they lost to Liverpool, we definitely would have won the next game.

“So forgive me for thinking that City should have won the title, I’m not doubting that.”

But acknowledging the odds and giving up are two different things and Hayes is not known for the latter.

A shock Manchester City defeat at home to Arsenal, in a game they were leading after 88 minutes, opened the door for Chelsea should they be able to claw back the goal difference, something they did hours later by putting eight past Bristol City without reply.

And so they travelled to Manchester on the final day knowing that in order to prevent City winning the title, they must dispatch United.

Nerves were expected, drama seemed to be guaranteed but neither arrived.

Mayra Ramirez powered Chelsea ahead after 90 seconds before laying the ball into the path of Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd to double the lead after 8 minutes.

The Colombian then went on to produce one of the single greatest individual performances of the WSL season over the next 35 minutes as she lashed home a third and laid on a fourth to give her side an unassailable lead and perhaps even drown the spirits of their rivals, who will no doubt have been aware of the score.

An early second half goal ensured the match was over as a contest before a late goal for the departing Chelsea legend Fran Kirby put the icing on the cake and signalled to the sold-out away end to commence their celebrations.

Manchester United’s sheepish parade of the FA Cup trophy they won a week prior was drowned out by chants of “Champions of England, five times in a row” from the away end.

An embarrassed and reluctant Hayes was pushed towards her fans by Cat Macario to soak up the display of love.

Hayes joked: “You can tell Cat is American, she’s not afraid of that but I’m British!”

In a weekend where Pep Guardiola seeks to win his side’s fourth successive Premier League title, a feat that is often mistakenly labelled as unprecedented, the scale of Hayes and her team’s success should be underlined.

In 12 years, she has taken a side with no professional players and no home to call their own, to the pinnacle of English football and the cusp of European greatness, whilst raising the standards of all around her.

Her legacy was cemented long ago and never hinged on yesterday's outcome. But there could have been no send off more fitting for a true great of the modern game than to bow out emphatically in front of the fans she adores.

The adoration is mutual, and she was greeted with chants of “We want you to stay” as she hoisted the league trophy aloft.

Many of these fans do not know Chelsea Women without Emma Hayes, many worry what Chelsea Women will look like without her. But worry they shouldn’t.

For Hayes is master at squad evolution and in Sjoeke Nusken, Aggie Beever-Jones, Maika Hamano and Hannah Hampton and others, she leaves her successor with the nucleus of a squad that has the potential to go on to bigger and better things.


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