Goalkeeper proud of 'wonderful journey' ahead of Chelsea Women swansong
Hedvig Lindahl will play her final match for Chelsea Women today at Reading, bringing a close to her hugely successful four-and-a-half-year spell with the Blues.
The final game of the 2018/19 season will take the goalkeeper onto 77 Chelsea appearances. Forty-five per cent of her games so far have yielded clean sheets.
The 36-year-old has been a key member of Emma Hayes’ squad since joining in December 2014 from Swedish side Kristianstads DFF. Her time at Chelsea Women has been trophy-laden having won the FA Women’s Super League and the Women’s FA Cup in 2015 and 2018, plus the 2017 Spring Series. She has also played a part in the club's first Champions League adventure which has progressed as far as the semi-final stage.
Lindahl has also earned plenty of individual recognition over the years too. In 2016, she was nominated for PFA Women’s Player of the Year and won a place in the WSL1 Team of the Year. In our Double-winning 2017/18 season, it came as no surprise she was selected in the FIFPro Women’s World XI, effectively making her the best goalkeeper in the world as voted for by her peers.
Admired for her quality, presence within the box and fine shot-stopping abilities, Lindahl has been named the Swedish Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year on eight separate occasions and has amassed over 150 international appearances, making her the most capped goalkeeper in the history of her national team. Other awards in her homeland include: Goalkeeper of the Year, the Women’s Diamond Ball award on two occasions, which is given to the best Swedish player over the course of the year, and an award given to a sporting mother who performed well.
She has been a significant part of the Blues’ transformation from part-time into a fully professional set-up and the rise to becoming one of the best clubs not only in England but in Europe.
‘It’s all been a learning curve and every time we’ve reached a result that’s great, obviously because that’s what we’re employed to do – to win. But I’m so happy about the steps we took to get to where we are now,’ Lindahl tells the official Chelsea website.
‘I’m very proud of the name change that the club made last year from Chelsea Ladies to Chelsea Women. The club is really trying to change the culture and I’m very proud of that step.’
Lindahl has been a reliable member of the team with her heroic saves on many occasions, but never more so than the first leg of our dramatic Champions League win over Bayern Munich last season. Her superb performance preserved our one-goal lead and that clean sheet proved to be priceless when we required the away-goals rule to progress further.
However, Lindahl’s favourite memory of her time at Chelsea is winning the Double in the 2014/15 season. She kept a clean sheet in 2015 FA Cup final, the first to be held at Wembley Stadium, as the club won its maiden trophy.
‘It’s a wonderful journey I have been able to experience here – from where the club was to where it is now, it’s such a major difference.
‘The first year winning the league and the FA Cup is something that I will cherish forever because that was the first titles for this club and it was a group of players that had not necessarily experienced professional winning situations, so it was very authentic and heartfelt.’
Lindahl speaks about her rapport with Chelsea Women’s fan base and pays her thanks to all the support.
‘It has been the first time where I have actually built a relationship with fans who are a group. I mean, yes, there are individual fans that stand out, but it’s the first time that I have played for a team that has a big group of people connected to the team.
‘For me it’s so important to acknowledge them because I have played for many years without people in the stands.
‘I’m so appreciative that they chose to take their free day in the week to come and support us and if I can give back, then I want to do that. I think they have seen that I try to do that, they tweet me to say that they appreciate what I do and it feels good, and I’m thankful.’
The experienced player made her senior debut for Sweden in 2002 and has played in World Cups (with another to come this summer) the Olympic Games and European Championships and wants to keep playing for as long as possible. However, she is unsure where her next move will take her.
‘My goal is to remain playing at a real high level, ideally playing Champions League and competing for titles in another team because I do feel like that when I’ve played this season, I’ve played well.
‘I think I can remain at a high level for a few more seasons and I want to be in a place where titles can be won because I don’t have enough time not to be – that’s my aim.
‘My first tournament was in the Euros in England in 2005, so if I really want to wrap it all together I want to end it with the Euros in England.
‘There is something with England that I will always be thankful for, even if I stay here or not, I have had many good years here and built many good relationships with people.’
Chelsea thanks Hedvig enormously for the fantastic service she has given to the club and wishes her well for the next chapter of her career.