• By Paul Lagan

Emma Hayes: Football is for everyone. Not for the privileged, not for the few, not for the elite

By Paul Lagan

Chelsea will face Bristol City in the final of the Conti Cup at Watford’s Vicarage Road on March 14.

The Blues thrashed West Ham United in the semi-final at Kingsmeadow tonight while Bristol saw off Leicester City 1-0 in the other one.

Pernille Harder hit a hat-trick for the Blues with other strikes coming from Sophie Ingle, Beth England and Fran Kirby.

Manager Emma Hayes heaped praise on her Denmark striker’s dealing with the tactical side of the game.

She said: “I’ve been aware of the drop off from the team in our regains in the counter presses of late. And It’s an area that Pernille has had to work at.

“I saw what I was looking for from her - for the aggression, and her work rate is second to none. “She is starting to build the relationships within the team which I knew was going to take time.

Against West Ham, it was her best game in a Chelsea shirt.

“I’m really pleased with the result - getting to finals is no easy achievement.

“The preparation put in by everyone pushes the team to new levels.

“We dispatched a very good team and that reflects the confidence in the camp at the moment.

“They are hungry for trophies. We know it’s ours to lose. We are holders but looking forward to being back in the final.”

Hayes was also keen to put right what she saw as misrepresentation in some sections of the media of her words when previously asked about the suggestion that AFC Wimbledon could be looking to hire her.

She said: “I had a conversation about the pride I’ve got to coach a team that I don’t consider a step down.

“Of course in some areas of the media, that is taken as ‘she’s offended AFC Wimbledon.’ I never mentioned them. We need to be conscious across the board about how we report things if we want to normalise it.

“If we want to challenge the status quo, I’m going to accept that I’m going to be hung out to dry sometimes.

“But I want to make sure on a daily basis that it’s a normal conversation to talk about the fair representation and reflection of our society within our sport.

“Our club actively works to promote that and I hope to do more work with the club, to talk about an equality position and equity position, to make sure we do as much in and around women in football that we do with racism.”

She added: “I’ve never spoke to Wimbledon and was never offered a job by them. The whole question asked of me was about my team.

“Let me be clear about this. It is not a step down to coach Chelsea women’s team.

It is an insult to suggest otherwise.

“Watching the reaction across the media in the past 24 hours, manipulating my words, turning headlines and using inflammatory language to infer I have insulted AFC Wimbledon. Far from it, what a wonderful club they are - they are local to our community, one that is dear to everybody's hearts at Chelsea.

“So to infer that I’ve insulted them, is a misrepresentation across the media, and that needs to be made clear.

“It’s not a surprise to me. Comments about women and men’s football tends to incite the entire universe. Fortunately I am sitting here talking about a subject that everybody in the world just wants to normalise.

“Football is for everyone. it’s not for the privileged, not for the few, not for the elite.

Football is represented by a diverse society and within that diverse society, men’s football does not reflect the diverse society that we live in.

“I sincerely hope that AFC Wimbledon get the right candidate for their football club. And the whole point about them not being able to afford me, (it’s) nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the fact that I’m in the best job in the world. And no amount of money is going to tempt me away from that.

“And to see the reaction from my end, all I can say is that women’s football and everybody that works within it, knows the levels you have to produce to be in It, you see that in the number of sackings that have taken place in our profession this year.

“It is not secondary to anything. Just as you don’t question female teachers differently to male teachers or female doctors. Women are entitled to the same opportunity and the same access. My final piece on it, is all I want is to normalise the conversation on it.

"So if the entire universe is talking about it tonight, then Hallelujah. Let’s have it more often.

“And let’s make sure we are talking about it, not feeling unbelievably threatened - that everybody has a place in football. I’m extremely happy at Chelsea.”

Of the team she is proud to coach she said: “I keep reminding myself of the thousands of hours we have put in for the growth of the team.

“It didn’t just happen, we didn’t just arrive. We added little pieces along the way.

The team is really coming together.

“I looked for some adjustment today, looked for some different tactics and they just applied it.

I’m so Impressed by my players, their hunger and ambition.

“I’ve been here nine years and for them to still be doing it for me and the club, I won’t take it for granted.”

Hayes revealed what it takes to remain motivated to push the side to greater heights.

“That’s who I am,” she said.

“I come from a hardworking background. My parents would not let me lie around on the sofa as a child. I always had to get up, do chores, get a Saturday job. We were pushed and that was instilled in me.

“Also make sure your team hears from you consistently, not about when you are winning or losing. There are times to be quiet in a game, one because the team is self-solving problems, the other is the bar, the standards you set.

“So if anyone drops to below that bar, my job, what I’m paid for, is to sustain that.

The motivation? Just look at this team, they are unbelievable, a pleasure to coach. I don’t say I don’t have a difficult life, I have to leave out top players every week, there’s a lot of sad faces, but winning makes it’s just a little bit easier to let people down every week.”