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Chelsea FC Women manager Emma Hayes reportedly on AFC Wimbledon shortlist, and that’s insulting

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Men’s football is not the zenith of women’s football

Aston Villa v Chelsea - FA Women’s Super League - Banks’s Stadium Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

AFC Wimbledon are a club in the third division of English men’s football, and who are having a horrid time of late. A string of poor results has them in the relegation zone, sporting a negative-19 goal difference.

As one might imagine, they weren’t too pleased with manager Glyn Hodges, whom they sacked (by “mutual consent”, if you would believe) on Saturday and are now searching for replacements.

One such name that popped up — from a rather dubious source, to be fair — is Chelsea FCW manager Emma Hayes.

What an honor, right? The first woman manager in senior men’s football!

Wrong.

This is insulting. (Regardless of whether the rumor is true, or, what is far more likely, untrue.)

Hayes has been in professional coaching since 2001, and has been manager at Chelsea FCW since 2012. During that time she has built the Blues into a juggernaut, which has recently been highlighted by the team setting a new WSL record for matches unbeaten, 32 — now at 33, and counting. Since the 2014-15 season, Hayes and Chelsea have lifted seven trophies, and the defending champion Blues currently sit atop the league table with a game still in hand.

Emma Hayes has transformed Chelsea FCW from a club into an institution, with shared characteristics among the players and the team that Hayes is extremely wary of disrupting. From player recruitment to the squad’s ruthlessness on the pitch, Hayes sets and maintains a high standard, and seeks to ensure that the team and the players have the tools and resources needed to thrive. Tactically, she has been fluid throughout the years, finding ways to give her best players the time and space to full express themselves. And as modern football progresses, Hayes has adapted and evolved well, most recently instituting a smothering press and counter-pressing schemes — and all of this is why AFC Wimbledon’s supposed interest is insulting.

Any level or opportunity in men’s football mustn’t be the zenith for people who work in women’s football, let alone for those who excel in it. If football truly is football, then an understanding of the game and what a manager has done and can do should be all that matters.

Arsenal Women v Chelsea Ladies - SSE Women’s FA Cup Final Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This absurdity of it all is further highlighted when we consider the managerial career of Phil Neville, who was handed the England Women’s National Team job despite no managerial experience whatsoever. He has used that job, despite often getting a most talented collection of English women’s footballers to play lethargic and uninspired football, to nab the head position at Inter Miami in MLS — a job Inter owner David Beckham assures was not handed to him because they’re pals.

And we can go even closer to home for another frustrating example of men in management being handed unearned positions. When Maurizio Sarri fled Chelsea for Juventus after just one season, the Blues turned to former player Frank Lampard, who had just completed his first season in management with Championship side Derby County — a job he was handed after his uncle, Harry Redknapp, made a phone call to Derby owner Mel Morris. (Redknapp got Lampard the Ipswich Town job first, but Lampard was wary that the club didn’t have the budget to bring in players he would want, so they both set their sights on the Derby job once it opened up.)

Chelsea Training and Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

We see this time and again with male managers in football, yet it’s posited as some heroic feat whenever any club may be considering a successful woman manager for their top role. To frame Emma Hayes as no more experienced that Frank Lampard or Phil Neville is not only ignorant, it’s illogical. Hayes’ resume with Chelsea not only shows that she is tactically astute, but that she can build a culture, playing style, and successfully recruit top players.

The primary problem is that top-flight women’s football still isn’t respected as the professional entity that it is, so it’s assumed that even someone with the success of Hayes should seriously consider an offer far beneath their proven level of expertise simply because they’re a woman. AFC Wimbledon wouldn’t merely be a major step down from Chelsea FCW, but their reported interest reveals a still too common distorted, sexist and incomplete valuation of the women’s game.

Chelsea FC Women Training Session Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images