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Three ‘leading candidates’ to succeed Emma Hayes at Chelsea FCW — report

Massive shoes to fill

The Best FIFA Football Awards 2023 - Green Carpet Arrivals Photo by Jeff Spicer/WireImage

When Emma Hayes announced her decision to leave Chelsea at the end of this season way back at the start of the season, one of the reasons she gave for that choice was that it would allow her (and the club) to properly plan her own succession. It’s not often in any sport (or any job, really) that you get to pick your replacement, so let’s hope that it works out better than when David Moyes took over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Anyway, that process is now starting to get under way, with reports over the weekend identifying a trio of leading candidates — all female, as preferred by the players. As per The Times, the three are Laura Harvey, Casey Stoney, and Elísabeth Gunarsdóttir.

2023 NWSL Championship - Training & Press Conference Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The first two might be familiar names. Harvey, 43, was the coach of Arsenal back when they were the dominant WSL power, winning back-to-back-to-back titles in 2010-12. Arsenal have won the league just once since (2018-19) despite consistently finishing top three, with Hayes’ Chelsea winning seven of the last nine. Like Hayes now, Harvey went to coach in the States in 2013, taking over the Seattle Reign for the inaugural season of the NWSL. She’s led Seattle to three titles since, briefly leaving the team for a couple years in between to take charge of the Utah Royals. She’s the all-time leader in wins in the NWSL.

San Diego Wave v NJ/NY Gotham FC Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Casey Stoney, 41, might not have as impressive of a CV, but she is one of our own, coming up through the Academy back in the late 90s and, following a brief detour to Arsenal, going to play for Chelsea for three years — including a brief stint as player-manager already as a 26-year-old. Unsurprisingly, Stoney went into coaching when she retired in 2018, and has since managed Manchester United (including a certain Lauren James there) and, currently, the San Diego Wave. She led United to the second division title in 2019 and San Diego to the best regular season record in the NWSL last year (i.e. the league title in any other league that doesn’t use playoffs to determine their champion).

Elísabeth Gunarsdóttir is bit more of a mystery. She’s been the coach of Kristianstands DFF in the Swedish first division for the past 14 years, never finishing higher than third during that time. She’s led the unheralded, usually midtable team to two Swedish cup finals, but lost both of them. She did win coach of the year in the league in 2017. Prior to Kristianstands, she won four titles in five years back in Iceland with Valur. That may make it seem like she’s quite old, but she started coaching at just 24! She’s 47, same as Hayes.

The Times adds that Carla Ward (Aston Villa) and Lluís Cortes (Saudi Arabia national team) are “understood to have been discussed earlier in the recruitment process”, which is led by Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart. Not sure why those two chuckleheads are in charge, but whatever. Hopefully Hayes & Co are the ones making the real decisions.

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