Women's Football

Emma Hayes deserves more than links to a League One job

Ali Rampling
Hayes has been linked with the AFC Wimbledon job
Hayes has been linked with the AFC Wimbledon job / Visionhaus/Getty Images
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Emma Hayes has quite rightly shut down speculation linking her to the vacant AFC Wimbledon job - news that has re-sparked the debate surrounding female coaches in the male game.

The Chelsea Women's manager - a three-time league champion and three-time Fifa coach of the year nominee - was supposedly one of a number of names on the League One outfit's shortlist following the sacking of Glyn Hodges.

Hayes is among the best coaches in English football
Hayes is among the best coaches in English football / Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

"Women's football is something to celebrate, and the quality and the achievements of all the females I represent," Hayes said when asked about the links to the vacancy (via BBC Sport). "It's an insult to them that we talk about women's football being a step down, with the dedication and the commitment and the quality they have. That's what I'm disappointed with, not being linked to a football job."

The job Hayes has done at Chelsea is remarkable. She has built a dynasty, setting new standards and raising the bar in terms of professionalism in the women's game.

The Chelsea position is more than just a season-to-season job to Hayes; since the summer of 2020, the Blues have begun tying players down to new, three to four-year deals - a length of contract unheard of in women's football. They signed exciting youngsters Niamh Charles and Jessie Fleming in addition to the world class talent brought in to Kingsmeadow during the summer window.

Hayes has a calculated, long-term project on her hands in West London, and Chelsea have the infrastructure and talent to seriously rival Lyon in the Champions League. They would be the first English team in over a decade to do so.

The time, space and autonomy that Hayes has been afforded at Chelsea to mould the club into her record-breaking winning machine is almost unheard of in the men's game today. The average lifespan of a manager in the EFL is a little over a year. Why would Hayes consider trading her cushty job in charge of one of the best teams in world football for a more unstable, volatile role in the third tier?

Because it's the allure of the men's game, apparently. But as Hayes quite rightly said, a woman should not be flattered to be linked with a job in the men's game simply because it is a job in the men's game.

The 44-year-old currently coaches a squad that includes three of the Best Fifa Women's Player nominees for 2020 in Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr and Ji So-yun. To ditch working with some of the world's best in favour of a mediocre men's side would be ludicrous - or just something that Phil Neville would do.

Yet taking a job in the men's game - regardless of the level - is somehow always perceived as an upgrade because it means having the sheer privilege of coaching men. More testosterone, an extra Y chromosome and a slightly better ability at accepting compliments - what's the superior appeal?

Hayes has assembled a world class side
Hayes has assembled a world class side / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

A coach's successes should not be downplayed because they have been achieved in the women's game. Winning seven trophies in eight years still requires the same tactical nous, player management skills and a little bit of luck.

Serena Williams' 23 Grand Slam titles, Allyson Felix's nine Olympic medals and Simone Biles' four golds at Rio are not any less significant because they are female.

Female footballers, coaches and teams should be afforded the same respect; celebrate their achievements as athletes, regardless of gender.

The job Hayes has done at Chelsea should result in her being regarded as one of the finest coaches currently working in English football. One day a female coach will hopefully be able to live her dream and take up the reins of a struggling League One outfit.

But it won't be Hayes. She deserves more than that.

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