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  • By Paul Lagan

Hayes: I'm blessed with good players, and the chocolate tastes great too

Emma Hayes Photo by Paul Lagan

Emma Hayes says that she is blessed with good players and after a 6-0 thumping of Bristol City Women on Wednesday night, it’s clear why they are good players and why Hayes pictured, can afford to rest vice-skipper Millie Bright at the same time.

Fran Kirby and Beth England scored a hat-trick each as Hayes’s charges ran riot against an enthusiastic but ultimate inferior opposition.

Hayes, who gets a bar of chocolate from the Chelsea Women Supporters Group after every match, munched the Galaxy bar as she regaled her praise for the team.

She said: “I know the players will be reading this - ‘play the game plan, play the game’.

“There was going to come a point when one team was going to get a hiding, and we were clinical,” she said.

“It could have been more than six. I’m happy for the hat-trick players (Kirby and England pictured), they complemented each other well. They caused them problems all evening.”

Beth England with her hat-trick ball Photo by Paul Lagan

Ever perfectionist Hayes still found fault in the performance and was quick to let them know it too.

“I thought we were sloppy defensively in the first half,” she said.

“Going 2-0 up so early meant it was comfortable - but we were sloppy. I wasn’t happy and told them at half-time that we have standards and it’s important we respect that. We have to do the fundamentals, respect the opponent, respect the game and we did that in the second half.

I’m blessed with a wealth of good players.”

There are key FA Cup and Champions League games coming up after the international break, and Hayes’ recent team selections are reflecting the need to reintroduce key players who have had injury and illness, and rest those who are carrying niggles and knocks.

It’s a delicate balance in act as results are needed at the same time.

Hayes’s strategy appears to be bearing fruit.

“We are finding consistency in our performance,” she said.

“Having players returning from injury and illness like Fran - that really helps.”

The switch in fortunes from an inconsistent start to the season happened when the Blues drew 0-0 away to Birmingham City on October 21 according to Hayes.

“We then went on 11-game unbeaten run,” she said. “That was a great spell for the team. The only upset was against Birmingham (a 2-3 league defeat on January 27), and that was after an international camp, when we looked jaded.

“It’s there but we lacked consistency, or failed built on moments at the right moments. But now, I think things are starting to come off for us.”

Millie Bright Photo by Paul Lagan

Vice skipper Millie Bright pictured was rested for the Wednesday night mauling and has pulled out of the England squad for the SheBelieves tournaments in the USA at the end of February to solve a persistent ankle problem.

Hayes explained the reasoning: “Part of my job is to help players in the World Cup squad and this is an opportunity for us to add some things into her programme, for her ankle. She could keep playing, it’s not affecting her performance, but we want to maintain the quality all the way through so she produces for club and country

“It’s a lot more manual therapy and treatment. Sometimes you can’t do that when you are pounding on hard ground.

“It’s a collective decision between (England manager) Phil (Neville) and I that preserves Millie throughout the season - that’s a priority.

“Millie will be available after international camp.”

Hayes then revealed a reason closer to home as to why Bright was out of the Chelsea side.

Hayes said: “Millie is not playing in the first leg against PSG (she’s suspended) so I have to look at somebody else.

“So I need to prepare for that. It’s an opportunity for that to happen. Managing and maintaining loads the right way requires thinking about that in key moments.”

Another player who is close to returning is Maria Thorisdottir.

Hayes said of the Norway defender: “Maria had a terrible concussion that took four months (to recover from). Once you have been out for a period, you can return to play and get a little niggles. She’s had a couple of little setbacks. It’s just one of those things, her health is the priority. “That concussion really had to be taken care of. It was a heavy challenge, but she’s almost there - she will go away with her international team and progress with her rehab. I suspect she will become a available after that.”

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