Emma Hayes deserves more than links to a League One job
Emma Hayes has rightly ended speculation linking her to the vacant post at AFC Wimbledon – news that has reignited the debate over female coaches in the men’s game.
The Chelsea women’s manager – three-time league champion and three-time Fifa Coach of the Year – was said to be one of many names on League One’s squad shortlist after Glyn Hodges was sacked .
“Women’s football is something to celebrate, as well as the quality and achievements of all the women I represent,” said Hayes when asked about links to the vacant post (via BBC Sport). “It is an insult to them that we say that women’s football is a step backwards, with the dedication, the commitment and the quality that they have. That’s what disappoints me, not being tied to a football job. ”
The work Hayes has done at Chelsea is remarkable. She’s built a dynasty, setting new standards and raising the bar for professionalism in women’s football.
Chelsea’s job is more than just a season-to-season job for Hayes; since the summer of 2020, the Blues have started to tie the players to new contracts of three to four years – an unheard of contract length in women’s football. They signed with exciting youngsters Niamh Charles and Jessie Fleming in addition to the world-class talent brought to Kingsmeadow during the summer window.
Hayes has a calculated, long-term project on his hands in West London, and Chelsea have the infrastructure and talent to seriously compete with Lyon in the Champions League. They would be the first England team in more than a decade to do so.
The time, space and autonomy Hayes enjoyed at Chelsea to mold the club into their record-breaking machine are almost unheard of in today’s men’s game. The average lifespan of a manager in the EFL is a little over a year. Why would Hayes consider swapping her cushy job in charge of one of the best teams in world football for a more volatile and volatile role at the third tier?
Because that’s the appeal of male play, apparently. But as Hayes rightly said, a woman shouldn’t be flattered to be linked with a job in men’s football just because it’s a job in men’s football.
The 44-year-old currently coaches a squad that includes three of FIFA’s Best Female Player nominees for 2020 in Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr and Ji So-yun. Giving up working with some of the best in the world in favor of a mediocre men’s team would be ridiculous – or just something Phil Neville would do.
Yet taking a job in men’s football – regardless of level – is somehow always seen as an improvement, as it means having the sheer privilege of coaching men. More testosterone, an extra Y chromosome, and a slightly better ability to take compliments – what’s the top appeal?
A manager’s successes should not be minimized because they have been achieved in the women’s game. Winning seven trophies in eight years still requires the same tactical acumen, the same player management skills, and a little luck.
Serena Williams ’23 Grand Slam titles, Allyson Felix’s nine Olympic medals and Simone Biles’ four gold medals in Rio are no less important because they are female.
Women footballers, coaches and teams should enjoy the same respect; celebrate their achievements as athletes, regardless of gender.
Hayes’ work at Chelsea should allow him to be considered one of the best coaches working in English football today. Hopefully, one day, a coach will be able to live her dream and take the reins of a struggling Ligue 1 team.
But it won’t be Hayes. She deserves more than that.