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Emma Hayes explains decision to leave Chelsea

Legend walking, on her own terms

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

There’s been a lot of speculation and a lot of finger-pointing since Chelsea made the shocking announcement that Emma Hayes will be leaving the club after a dozen legendary years, during which she made the Blues the most dominant women’s team in England.

Tabloids claimed that co-sporting director Paul Winstanley dropped the ball, much to the supposed displeasure of the owners, and to the very real displeasure of the fans. Damage-control reports spoke of Chelsea offering to quadruple Hayes’ salary (or least being “willing to”), but still not being able to compete with the cachet (or the financials) of the USWNT job, which Hayes looks to be taking up at the end of the club season (unofficial and unconfirmed as yet).

The truth, as usual, is a bit more complicated than any of those extremes. And at the heart of it all, as Hayes herself has explained to Chelsea TV after a week of silence, is family. Her actual family.

“[My son] Harry, you know, he’s five and he wants to see a bit more of his mummy. I don’t want to get to 12 and all of a sudden say, I missed out on everything. I’ve never been in a sports day. I’ve never been to pick him up after school. I’ve never been to take him to an after school club, and I want to do that.

“I do four hours driving every day, for the last twelve years. And I think it’s time for me to reset and put other things first. But the dedication you need to do this job, I just can’t compromise it. So I think it’s important for somebody else to take the baton and I’ll do everything to make sure they’re as successful as possible.”

-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea TV

Speaking in her pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend’s trip to Everton, Hayes explained a bit more about wanting to re-prioritize her life and making sure she can give full commitment to not only her job but her family as well.

“It was my decision. When you coach at an elite level and you have to perform at an elite level, and you have the standards and expectations that I have, anything less than the best is not acceptable and maintaining that, on a daily grind, is a lot. It takes a lot of work.

“It is important that I’m a mum. Not many football managers sit up here and talk about that in the same way. My little boy has been extraordinary to allow me to do this, but it’s challenging for him. [...] This is about putting some other things first in my life and I’m ready for that.”

“I don’t think [my son] has a healthy relationship with football because he sees the unhealthy aspect of it. So, I think of it like this: he’s five, I’ve got until about the age of 12 to really maximise that. Of course, I plan to keep on working, but I want to make sure I don’t look back on my life and regret that part.”

-Emma Hayes; source: Guardian

Aston Villa v Chelsea FC - Barclays Women´s Super League Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

That said, Hayes isn’t forgetting about her work-family either. She’s staying with us until the end of the season that’s just begun, and will be looking to add a few more bits of silverware to our well-stocked trophy cabinet before bidding a final farewell.

In the meantime, she also gets to create her own succession plan, which is a privilege rarely afforded in any line of work, but especially in professional sports.

“Of course, it’s been really difficult. After I spoke with the players last Sunday, I felt like I was abandoning my family. So my initial thoughts these last few days was sadness [...] but now I just feel so much pride for the club I represent, the team I represent, and I want to do everything possible to make sure we continue with the good work that’s been done in my time here.

“[...] For now, I’m all about winning. And now the club has the time to prepare for the exit. So, Paul Green and Emma Hayes to succession-plan my own exit! This for me is a dream scenario so that we can identify the next candidate that can take this team forward.

“I’m a custodian of Chelsea and I’ve worn the badge with honor and pride, and I hope I’ve done the fans proud. And I hope I bring trophies to this team this season as I’ve done the last few.”

-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea TV

Proud is a massive understatement indeed.

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