Claire Rafferty’s decade-long Chelsea career is to reach its conclusion at the end of the season when we say goodbye to the Ladies team’s longest-serving player.
The 29-year-old will be leaving after the game at Liverpool this weekend, having been a significant part of the club’s transformation into a professional outfit playing in the Women’s Super League, and our rise to be champions of England twice and a force on the European stage.
Rafferty departs having been part of the domestic Doubles won in 2015 and this year, and the Spring Series win in 2017.
She was a left-midfielder in her early days at Chelsea, having joined from Millwall in 2007, but it is as an attack-minded left-back of England international quality she came to be known.
Rafferty has shown resilience in overcoming a succession of injuries during her career, and 2012 was a year of big events for her. She was in the Blues team beaten on penalties in our first FA Cup final appearance and part of the Team GB squad which reached the quarter-finals at the London Olympics.
Chelsea Ladies continued to progress, missing out on the league title on the final day of the 2014 season, but Rafferty was a major part of the side which more than made up for that by winning both the Women’s FA Cup, the club’s first major silverware, and the WSL title the following year. It was hugely symbolic of Rafferty’s importance and long service that she was asked by captain Katie Chapman to jointly lift both trophies on those historic days.
Our high finishes in the WSL led to Rafferty becoming a Champions League player and happily, winning the Double has not been a one-off experience for her. The Blues repeated that tremendous feat this year and among her 12 appearances, Rafferty played in our final home game of the season, a crucial win over Sunderland last weekend.
Earlier in the campaign, in December, she celebrated her 10 years at the club as she captained the side to a big win over Tottenham.
She has played in two World Cups for England, featuring in the quarter-finals in 2011 when the Lionesses were beaten on penalties, and she was first-choice left-back four years later when England won the bronze medal.
On her Chelsea departure, Rafferty said: ‘It has been a tough decision to leave but I feel the time is right. I am so proud of my time with Chelsea and can’t thank the players and staff enough for everything they have done for me.
'To go out on such a high is the perfect way to finish and now the aim is to end the season unbeaten when we play Liverpool this weekend.
'Chelsea will always be in my heart and I hope to be back here in the future in some capacity.’
Chelsea thanks Claire enormously for the long, distinguished and successful service she has given to the club and wishes her well for the next stage of her career.
We will be looking back with Claire on her time as a Blue next week.