In the second of a two-part interview, Chelsea Women defender Maren Mjelde discusses her standout moments of our successful 2019/20 season, the importance of family support, and Guro Reiten’s first year at the club…
In part one of the interview yesterday, the Norway international spoke about being crowned winners of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, her excitement for next season, as well as qualification for the 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Here she keeps her attention on our Double-winning season and reflects upon the Blues’ achievements from the past six months, which includes concluding the league as the only team to be undefeated.
‘It’s always good to get a new title, especially after the season last year, when we finished third and didn’t reach any cup finals or qualify for the Champions League,’ Mjelde said.
‘The team came together last summer in pre-season and we didn’t want another season like that. We wanted to be on top again, where we feel we belong, but we knew we had to work really hard for it.
‘Up until everything stopped, I felt our season had been so good and we did everything we talked about doing. That’s why it also feels good to have this proof of us having a good season, even though it stopped before it ended.’
A big moment for Chelsea came in December when we beat rivals Manchester City in the league for the first time in six years, courtesy of Mjelde’s late winner.
Mjelde is known to crop up and produce a moment of magic late on in big games, having done so against PSG in the second leg of the Champions league quarter-final last season, and more recently in the Continental League Cup semi-final against Manchester United. There is simply no quit in her and with the Blues coming back from behind a number of times this term, she emphasises the importance of never giving up.
‘Against City we were either unlucky, because we were the better team, or we were playing badly against them.
‘There was never a game where we were in control the whole time and winning easily, but that just shows the quality they’ve had for so many years. They’ve always been a hard opponent for us.
‘In the end, you think, 'Is this a mental thing for us?' As a team, we can beat anyone – we’ve shown that. But against City it has always been hard.
‘So, winning that game from them being 1-0 up, when you’re thinking 'is this going to happen again?', we’ve found a way to get back into games. Not stressing, just believing in the end we will win.
‘We have so many good individual players, but this year it has been more about the team. Coming back in that game, going to 1-1 and then I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, as Beth was shooting and it hit me and went in.
‘We’ve had some comebacks this year which have been good for us and in the end it’s given us the league title.’
Another game that Mjelde deems as a season highlight and sticks out for personal reasons was our ruthless 4-1 victory away to Arsenal in January. The defender was a doubt leading up to the London derby after suffering a calf injury a week-and-a-half before, yet against all odds, she returned to the line-up and played 90 minutes!
‘For me personally, I didn’t think I was going to play that game,’ Mjelde revealed. ‘I got a calf injury just a week and a half before it and I got the message from the doctor on the Monday before the game: “No, you’re not playing – there’s a big risk of a long-term injury if you play.”
‘I accepted to the fact I wasn’t going to play and I did my rehab sessions on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I just felt better and better, so in my head I was like, 'Maybe I can play. I don’t have any pain.' Still the doctor said it was too much of a risk.
‘It came to Thursday and the doctors wanted to test me again and they said, “If you can do this, maybe you have a chance of playing.” I remember the session really well, because they really pushed me – and I could do everything. Suddenly they were like, “No, you can play on Sunday after all.”
‘It was so good I could be on the field for what was one of the coolest games we played all season. Going away to Arsenal and really, really battering them.
‘The first 20 minutes was unbelievable, I don’t think they understood what was happening. Three goals up! Against Arsenal! Especially after what happened the year before, when they beat us 5-0 at Kingsmeadow. I think all of the guys still remember that day and it was probably one of the hardest games we’ve had as a Chelsea team.’
Mjelde is from a footballing background, her father played when he was younger and her brother was a professional in Norway before retiring recently. She discusses her close relationship with her family and the positive influence they have had upon her career thus far.
‘I talk to my dad a lot and also my oldest brother, who has also been playing football but just retired,’ Mjelde said. ‘He played professionally in Norway for many years.
‘My whole family is really into football. It’s good to have someone to talk to before and after games. They give me feedback on things that no one else is really giving me feedback on – both positively and negatively.
‘They don’t tell me off if I have a bad game and they’re not saying I’m the best player if I have a good game. We just have an honest relationship, a healthy relationship when it comes to football,’ she continued.
Mjelde went on to praise fellow Norwegian, Reiten, who has now completed her debut season at Chelsea. The winger has had a superb campaign for the Blues having netted seven goals in 23 appearances and Mjelde highlighted the positive impact that she has had on the squad.
‘Guro has had a really good first season, that can always be tough,’ she said. ‘When you come to a new team, a new country, but she’s been taking it really good.
‘She came into the group and made an impact as soon as she started playing. If you ask her, she’ll probably say it was hard at the start, because things are new, it’s more professional than she was used to, and the tempo and physicality of the league, especially in our team, is probably a lot harder than the other places she has been.
‘She showed she’s a quality player and has a really good left foot that she’s been using for both scoring and assisting. That gives our team different options, different qualities. We have a really good team now.’