Magdalena Eriksson has only been captain of the Chelsea FC Women team since September – but in just eight months it has already become clear why manager Emma Hayes handed the Swedish centre-back the armband.
After a rare trophyless season in 2018/19, Eriksson and her team-mates have been in inspired form this season. Prior to the lockdown they were unbeaten in all competitions and in their final competitive outing before football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, they had just lifted the Continental League Cup after defeating Arsenal 2-1.
In the Barclays Women’s Super League, the Blues have their destiny in their own hands, currently sitting one point behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand, while we are also due to visit Everton in the last eight of the FA Cup as Eriksson and co. target club history by completing the domestic Treble.
The charge for the domestic Treble is currently on hold and while Eriksson admits that is frustrating she is confident the Blues can pick up where we left off as and when football returns.
‘Last season we felt devastated not to win anything, and that’s been our fuel. You can really see how hungry we’ve been for winning this season,’ said Eriksson, who is supporting the Common Goal initiative, the movement through which footballers pledge one per cent of their income to charity.
‘The situation is the same for everyone. If it wasn’t I would feel differently, but it is the way it is. We can’t possibly play, and we don’t feel there are any gains in thinking what might have been, or what good form we were in.
‘We know that when we start again we’ll still be the same players. At this moment it’s just about staying fit and healthy, and it might even be good that some players got the rest they needed after a tough World Cup and a shortened summer break. We’re just looking at the positives we can take from the situation, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves.’
The defender is a natural leader and had skippered her former team to the Damallsvenskan title – Sweden’s equivalent to the WSL – in her final season at the club in 2016. She believes her previous experiences have only helped develop her leadership skills at for us.
‘I remember on my first youth cap (for Sweden) when I was 15, I was the captain,’ Eriksson recalled. ‘It’s quite crazy to think back on that, and it’s just always been a natural part of my game. Being a centre-back makes it natural too.
‘I’ve never been the most vocal leader, screaming in the locker room, but I always wanted to win every game and I understood that it’s a team effort, so I’ve always tried to get my team-mates with me. When I was made captain in Linkopings it felt so big, and I was so honoured.
‘I was really young and it was a lot, so I think I learned a lot from that year and I took the experiences from that into being the captain at Chelsea. I’m always trying to make myself a better leader and think about ways to improve myself.’
Hayes’ coaching style encourages senior players to have an active role in the running of the team and Eriksson reveals that the responsibility has empowered her and given her more confidence to express her views to the Chelsea manager.
‘Emma is really keen on involving players and having player accountability,’ she said. ‘That’s something that I’ve learned I like. As players we feel like we have buy-in in a totally different way, and that we’re part of the process.
‘At Chelsea it’s been mainly about feeling the room the whole time, putting my emotions and feelings aside and just being a representative of the team. But also being brave enough to step into Emma’s office if I need to and say something, which has also been very rewarding personally.
‘That’s something I wanted to work on, to be able to say, “This is what we feel”. It’s been a good journey and it’s nowhere near finished – I feel like I’m just starting.’