The Chelsea boss was delighted with her team’s display, but it was the depth and diversity that particularly pleased Hayes.
The Blues, nickname for Chelsea Football Club, returned to Kingsmeadow for the first time in six months yesterday. Hayes, currently the manager of FA WSL club Chelsea Women but also English professional football manager, was ‘happy to be home’ in the newly refurbished stadium for what was the maiden home fixture of the 2020/21 Barclays FA Women’s Super League season - the highest league of women's football in England.
‘I’m so happy to be home but I’m also so happy to be in a place that our club has given us, it’s something for me which is the foundation of success, which is a pretty looking home,’ Hayes admitted.
Nine different names were pencilled in on the scoresheet, showing the diverse environment the team now has with Pernille Harder, Melanie Leupolz and Niamh Charles all netting debut goals for the club.
Goals from Fran Kirby, Maren Mjelde, Leupolz, Cuthbert and Bright put us 5-0 up by half-time. Last season’s top goal scorer Bethany England and substitutes Charles and Harder got in on the act and Sam Kerr completed the rout with minutes left on the clock.
The Chelsea boss was logically delighted with her team’s display, but it was the depth and diversity that particularly pleased Hayes.
‘I thought the team probably mirrored the training week, I thought we were consistent in training, I thought there was a lot of top performances.
‘The fact that there were nine different goal scorers shows the diverse players that we have in our group, so I’m happy about that. I’m happy for a clean sheet and happy about no injuries.’
The Chelsea group is very competitive being jam-packed with world-class talent and while the team spirit is shiny following the positive start to the new campaign, Hayes has also highlighted the difficulty she has in keeping all members of her squad happy but has emphasised the key in achieving success is through a squad effort.
‘I don’t keep everyone happy, I’ve said it before and I mean it,’ Hayes admitted. ‘I’ve never felt there’s been a happy bench and when teams are put together a day before a game, you always have unhappy players but my job is to win, that’s what my job is, not to make everybody happy.
‘But one thing I will say is that talent wins games, teams win championships. I have the experience of knowing that, they have the experience of knowing that and it’s my job to point them to that regularly because if it becomes about an individual at any point, then you compromise winning the biggest prizes.
‘They are recruited to this club because of the people and the characters they are. Part of that foundation is that they understand the ethic involved in winning and they understand that without each other talent doesn’t matter,’ she continued.
Specifically, during the match, Kirby broke the deadlock after 15 minutes to record her first goal since May 2019, following her return from illness, and Hayes praised the effort and resilience that our No.14 has put in over the months to get back onto the pitch.
‘Fran has been unbelievable,’ Hayes proudly said. ‘I get to see the players in training every day, so when a team is picked the manager is always going to know which one has produced the most and Fran has been unbelievable both on and off the pitch in pre-season.
‘I don’t even think it’s about Fran being back, I think Fran is at another level already and she doesn’t have to carry everything on her shoulders in this team as she might have done a few years ago.
‘She’s a joy to coach, she’s come out the other side and she’s showing her class and I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing that she can talk about her football and what she’s doing on the pitch and not everything that’s going off of it.
‘I’ve been here a long time, I care about these people. They all have highs and lows and that’s my job to make sure they are supported in there most difficult times. Watching her come through gives me as much pride and joy as anything because she’s someone I care about immensely.’