As Chelsea prepare for their Conti Cup Semi-Final with West Ham United I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Emma Hayes and Magda Eriksson.
Eriksson downplayed any suggestion that based on league form their tie with West Ham United is already won. She said, “In my opinion, West Ham are better than their league position at the moment. We struggled when we played them in December. As it’s a cup game they’re going to give it everything that they’ve got. I have huge respect for them and we have to be ready.”
Eriksson was asked about the rumours suggesting that AFC Wimbledon are considering approaching Hayes for their vacant managerial position. She replied, “I understand why people would want to grab her.” Adding that she feels that Hayes has more that she wants to achieve with Chelsea in the near future.
When it was Hayes’ turn to respond to these rumours she was her usual loyal and forthright self, explaining that she is not looking for another job and reminded everyone that she is blessed to work with “wonderful humans day in, day out.”
More important to Hayes is the bigger picture, she said, “When the football world is ready to adhere to the diversity codes so that BAME communities, plus women can get the opportunities in football then I’ll see that as a step forward.” Suggesting that we should have larger conversations about creating opportunities across the diverse spectrum so that these opportunities in the men’s game is not limited to those in privileged positions.
Adding that any suggestion that a move into the men’s football would be a step up for her was “an insult” to women’s football. “I just don’t know why anyone would ever think that women’s football is a step down and that coaching World Cup champions, winners, players that have represented their countries in the Olympics or European championships is a step down from anything.”
Going back to tonight’s semi-final I asked Eriksson whether the squad are taking things one game at a time and whether there is a danger in looking further ahead than the next game. She told me, “I think that it is one of the biggest reasons we have been so successful over these last two years. It is about taking one game at a time, its a cliche but it’s a cliche for a reason, it works. You cannot get too far ahead of yourself, one game a time is key.”
This is something that Hayes agrees with. She described to me how it is difficult to plan her teams too far in advance as there are just too many unexpected variables that could come into play, such as injuries and suspensions. She went on to tell me, “We certainly work out our game plans in advance so we have an idea of who that opponent will be and whether some players might be more suited than others. We don’t have starting elevens here, we have a squad of players that we can utilise in different formats. I say this to the players in terms of keeping them fit and fresh.
“What I learnt in the latter stages of competitions at the back end of the season was that if you go into that with suspensions, injuries etc, it just reduces your chances against the top teams.” Going on to reference the challenge of matching the likes of Lyons in the Champions League.
With a full squad available I would like to see Erin Cuthbert return to the starting eleven, along with Beth England up front with Pernille Harder. England’s strength in the forward line will be important against a strong and combative Hammers defence. I struggle to see any other outcome than a Chelsea win which would set up a final in which the blues would be very strong favourites. Although, this is the cup so who knows what magic could happen?