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Hayes: I miss being me!

Hayes: I miss being me!

I miss being myself, said Chelsea manager Emma Hayes at an emotion-charged press conference on Friday at the training ground as she got her squad ready for her final club game. Next week she jets out to the States to become the USA Women’s national coach, after first trying to steer her team to victory

I miss being myself, said Chelsea manager Emma Hayes at an emotion-charged press conference on Friday at the training ground as she got her squad ready for her final club game.

Next week she jets out to the States to become the USA Women’s national coach, after first trying to steer her team to victory against Manchester United Women, while Manchester City will be simultaneously pressing for a win at Aston Villa.

Both games kick off at 3pm on Saturday, with Chelsea live on Sky and City live on the BBC. It could all come down to goal difference at 4.45pm.

“All the attention and focus is on getting the team ready today and the matchday-minus-one sessions are a lot of fun,” she said. “We get to hopefully play in front of a close-to-sold-out crowd at Old Trafford, and for us to be in with a shout of the title on the last day, that is all I have asked from the players.

“No matter the outcome, I’m excited. I’m just extremely proud of the efforts of everyone to put us in this position.

“We’re accustomed to being in this position. Everybody knows what’s at stake, but we’ve had a lot of winning, so I don’t really think the pressure is on us. Of course, I’d love to leave with another title, but it definitely won’t define my tenure here. We’ve always had the resilience to be at the top end come the business end of the season.”

Hayes – who walked into the press room at Cobham hand-in-hand with son Harry on his sixth birthday – reflected on leaving Chelsea after 12 years.

“I actually miss ‘Emma’, and feeling like I don’t have to watch every word I say, or worry about what my body language looks like in every situation because of cameras on me,” she said, adding that she felt the players had been having to perform recently with ‘an unnecessary boulder’ on their shoulders as her own departure nears.

Emma Hayes fields question at her last pre-match press conference at Cobham

“I promise you they will play with freedom tomorrow,” she said. “There’s no pressure, there is merely joy and privilege and their manager is so proud of everything they’ve done. I just want to look forward and make sure it’s a day when we can just be Chelsea tomorrow.”

There will be hugs and tears at Old Trafford, whatever the outcome of the game on Saturday, as Hayes says goodbye to her team, but she’s doing her best to avoid waterworks until the final whistle.

“I had my last drive into work today, my office is already cleared out, it’s my last coaching session with a group of people who I have built strong bonds with,” she said. “I wouldn’t change a single thing, and I am so delighted to get one more training session with my team and one more game, and I know for sure we’re going to enjoy it.”

Facing FA Cup winners Manchester United will involve another reunion with Reds left back Hannah Blundell, who has spent more time with Hayes as her manager than anyone else.

“Hannah has become a leader at Manchester, and she’s really deserving of what she’s doing here,” said Hayes, who has a close bond with a defender who spent eight years at Chelsea and only moved on because of teammate Naimh Charles’ blossoming.

“Players want to play. I get that. At that time she wasn’t in the team, and I’m happy for Hannah. You can’t take away what she’s done at Chelsea, but I’m sure she’s equally proud of what she’s doing at Manchester United.”

On saying goodbye, she added: “I think staying on top of the emotion is something I’m really good at, but sometimes I really hate that. I think you have to do that a lot as a manager, take a lot of emotion out of things, which is probably one of the reasons why I’m leaving this job.”

It was also the last Cobham press conference for Brian Pullman, who has worked in the press room at Chelsea for more than half a century

She has steered Chelsea Women from the amateur Chelsea Ladies to the powerhouse of professionalism it is today; a club at the top of the pyramid on the world stage.

“Going from nothing, going from an unranked team that was close to relegation, that had no resources, that had no facilities, no players that were professional. I think the journey is probably the most satisfying piece of that,” she said.

“We didn’t have a history in women’s football, we’re now considered one of the top sides in the world. Then of course there’s the people; this is about human beings, and being able to experience whoever they were. And then, of course, winning is just as important. But I don’t think the winning is going to be my lasting memory, to be honest.”

Although Sonia Bompastor of Lyon is expected to be formally announced as the new manager after her side has played the Champions League final on 25 May, Hayes will still keep a close eye on Chelsea’s progress, and knows she will always be welcomed back to Kingsmeadow.

Or Stamford Bridge, where she has now joined the Hall of Fame on the old Shed back wall at the stadium; the first woman to be honoured at the club.

Hayes hopes more of Chelsea Women’s bigger fixtures will be played in front of sell-out crowds at the Bridge in future after Arsenal announced that most of their home games next season will transfer to the 60,000-seat Emirates stadium.

“I want to see us play at Stamford Bridge every week! I want the girls to have a new facility, and I want that to be continually upgraded. I want them to continue to have a voice and I know they will.

“I want them to put the legacy into the walls, but through the eyes of the players, not mine. I want them to be heard around what legacy is to them and what the cultures are that they want to remain. I want them to never, ever stop asking: ‘What can we do better?’ As I always say, do it again but do it with class and keep giving to the Chelsea fanbase in the way they have.”





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