Chelsea Ladies can win their first Women’s Super League title on Sunday with a victory at Manchester City Ladies. If they do not, then Birmingham City and Liverpool both have slim chances to take the championship from them.
It would be a remarkable achievement if Chelsea were to win the WSL, which would be their first major title in women’s football. They finished second from bottom last season and were not widely expected to challenge for the title this year. They have the fifth largest budget in the league and are far away from the financial muscle of some of the teams who have fallen behind them this season.
Arsenal Ladies, of course, are always a force, with a track record of domestic and European success beyond any of their competitors, despite a difficult season last year and the departure of their coach, Shelley Kerr.
Manchester City have invested heavily in players, such as Toni Duggan and Steph Houghton, yet they are second from bottom, with 16 points from 13 games. Liverpool, the reigning champions, need an unlikely combination of results on Sunday if they are to retain their title.
Chelsea are the only club in the WSL this year to have a female coach, in Emma Hayes. The Football Association decided as part of its recent revamp of women’s football that WSL managers would have to have the Uefa A Licence, which has naturally limited the pool of available managers.
Hayes is proud of her achievements but, more than anything, is determined to get the job done this weekend.
“I’ve never cared about what any other team has been doing during the season and I don’t care this weekend,” she told the Chelsea website this week.
“It’s in our hands, and any manager will tell you that’s the best position to be in. I don’t want any team to do us a favour – we’ll do ourselves one.”
Hayes was an assistant coach at Arsenal during their most successful period, working under Vic Akers, before being coach of Chicago Red Stars in the US. Now she is back in England, imposing her vision on Chelsea while sharing her time with other jobs in the media and in finance.
Hayes is a single-minded winner and sees a natural counterpart in Jose Mourinho, the manager of Chelsea’s men’s team. “I admire his work, he’s a phenomenal coach,” Hayes said recently.
“We’re quite an integrated club. I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with their first-team staff. We talked about the quality of female players coming through. He’s got a very keen interest in this whole club.
“[Mourinho] is very keen to see Chelsea evolve from top to bottom.”
The Chelsea Ladies team do not have as much money behind them as their rivals, and not all of the players are full-time at the club. If they beat Manchester City and win the WSL title, they will surely move forward in that direction. It would be a great achievement, and a platform to do so much more.Reuse content