The record books will show Chelsea Women won three points from the opening game of the season against Spurs, but for manager Emma Hayes a match at Stamford Bridge in front of a big crowd means it was a more significant victory than she could put into words.
The Blues kicked off our Barclays Women’s Super League campaign with a 1-0 victory in a London derby played at the club’s west London stadium in front of a crowd of more than five times as much as our previous best for a home fixture.
Bethany England, fresh from her international debut, will deservedly take the plaudits for a magnificent goal to settle a hard-fought contest against our newly promoted opponents from the north of the capital, but for Hayes it was a huge win for every single person at the football club – and there was one moment in particular which stood out.
‘Just before kick-off, as the Chelsea fans are starting to make an atmosphere, the Spurs fans start chanting and I think, “Happy days!”’ said the Blues boss in her post-match press conference. ‘This is what we’ve worked towards.
‘We’ve built on the momentum of the World Cup, with the timing of the game, and now I have to put everybody under more pressure to say I want more of them! All of you [journalists] make my job easier in that regard. It’s about sensible conversations
‘Should we have won this game by a bigger scoreline? But it’s not about goals, it’s about winning games – and we’ve won a lot today. Women’s football will continue to grow and I’m so proud of this football club. Everyone has employers they say, “I loved working for them” but I doubt I’ll ever work at a place that has pushed for women to progress like this place has. I’m so happy for Roman Abramovich, Bruce Buck, Guy Laurence and people who have been with us from day one too. Everybody was so committed to today.’
Of course, the manager also had words of praise for her goalscorer, but there was also encouragement for a couple of the unsung members of her squad.
‘Beth’s feet are firmly on the floor,’ she added. ‘I think the first four minutes of the game she saw the pocket of space because they dropped so deep. She is ready – she justifiably earned her England call-up. She’s got charisma, good hold-up play and can finish with left and right foot. What a brilliant personality in the dressing room. She also has the most beautiful puppy, Buddy, who has entered her life this week and we’ve been hiding him in the office because my general manager doesn’t like pets in the building.
‘I am also over the moon for someone like Deanna Cooper, 18 months recovery from an ACL injury and coming back to her best; Adelina Engman, who week in, week out hasn’t had games of football. I’ve had a small squad, which you can’t have when you’re in the Champions League – but I prefer it. Bigger spirit. Collectively, as a group, we’ve got everybody pulling in the same direction.’
Enjoyed today’s game? Why not see more at Kingsmeadow with Women’s season tickets just £49 for the whole season. Junior fans (aged under 20) as well as senior fans (aged 65 or over) can enjoy the whole season for just £5!
The next home game is against West Ham on Sunday 22 September.