In our history of Chelsea Women series, we are telling the tale of female football at Chelsea, from a high profile exhibition match a century ago to 1970s and 1990s Blues women’s teams to the modern era at the pinnacle of the sport.
It has all led up to a sell-out crowd for our Women’s Super League opener at Stamford Bridge this coming Sunday and in part four of the History of Chelsea Women today, major silverware is captured as the club as we know it today truly hits its stride…
WE’RE GOING TO WEMBLEY! CHELSEA IN THE WOMEN’S FA CUP FINAL
Ahead of the 2015 season, it was announced that the Women’s FA Cup final, for the first time in the competition’s 44-year history, would be played at Wembley Stadium.Despite the previous season’s collapse at the final hurdle, we were among the favourites for the trophy, aided in no small part by another smart recruitment drive by Hayes and her trusted assistant, Paul Green, as they brought in top domestic stars Gemma Davison and Niamh Fahey, world-class Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and bright young talent Millie Bright, who Green had worked with during his time with Doncaster Rovers Belles.Having suffered heartache on the final day of the previous season’s FA Women’s Super League 1, some may say it was written in the stars that the Blues would make the illustrious walk up the most famous steps in football to collect the trophy.
Tickets for the London derby against Tottenham Women sold out in record time but a few returned standard tickets are back available to claim free of charge, plus some restricted view tickets. There is also a Brunch + Ticket package offer.
Sunday at Stamford Bridge promises to be a great day for all the family with plenty going on including a DJ set from Marvin Humes.
By the time the final took place in August, we were already leading the title race and Ji was the top player in the country, recognised by her peers who voted her as the PFA Women’s Player of the Year.On the morning of the final against Notts County, Hayes received a phone call from Chelsea skipper John Terry, wishing her and the girls luck for the final, and then a relaxed squad met up the stadium. The pre-match talk featured an improvised version of Rudyard Kipling’s inspirational poem If and a gift from their manager; each player was handed a rose grown in Hayes’ back garden, reflecting their own growth.
The result was a deserving 1-0 victory for the Blues and it came as no surprise that our South Korean superstar settled the game at the home of English football, scoring a scrappy goal to see off our Midlands opponents. The composed and mature display, in front of 30,710 supporters – more than double the crowd which saw the previous year’s final at Stadium:MK – and almost 2m more on television marked the Blues out as the top team in the country.
The timing could not have been much better, coming off the back of the Lionesses run to third place at the Women’s World Cup in Canada and when one of the stars of that side, Fran Kirby, was chased by every one of the top clubs in the country, it was telling that she chose to make Chelsea her home. What a wise move that would prove to be…
CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES, OLE, OLE, OLE! CHELSEA WIN THE WSL
‘Winning the cup was so significant. It’s not just that it was historic, and it was the first trophy – it was the culmination of three years’ worth of work and a collective effort from everyone. We’ve made clear our intentions: it’s about winning, it’s about silverware. That was the first step towards doing that.’Those were the words of Hayes in the aftermath of that glorious day at a sun-kissed Wembley Stadium; she knew their season’s work was only half complete, with the second half of the domestic Double still to be completed.Once again, the fate of the title was still up in the air on the final day of the 2015 season. Chelsea held a two-point lead over Manchester City going into our game against Sunderland, who had inflicted one of our only two defeats of the campaign with a thumping 4-0 victory in the North-East.
Among the 2,710 supporters at Wheatsheaf Park for our date with destiny was men’s captain JT, who delighted fans by posing for photographs ahead of kick-off, and the party atmosphere continued throughout as we ran out 4-0 victors to clinch the WSL title for the first time.Two goals for Kirby, either side of strikes from Ji and Davison, ensured a thumping we which exorcised the demons many of the players had carried with them for a year. No one could dispute we were deserved champions; as well as leading from virtually the first fixture, we scored more goals and conceded fewer than any other side. There was historical resonance too. The match against Sunderland had taken place exactly 23 years after the reformed women's team had played their first game back in 1992.
‘We looked like champions tonight,’ said Hayes after her players had lifted the trophy in front of their own supporters. ‘After the FA Cup final, we have had the confidence of being a winning team. That front four is capable of beating any team in Europe.’Soon we would have an opportunity to find out, and there was no time to party. Our maiden voyage in the Women’s Champions League, which had seemed a distant dream when Hayes had taken the reins, would begin just a few days later…
In the final part of the History of Chelsea Women later this week, the Champions League campaigns, a fully professional WSL and a keenly watched World Cup are covered as the story is brought right up to date.