Emma Hayes dedicated her team’s victory in the FA Women’s Cup final to Chelsea’s new owners, as well as her supporters, after admitting the club has “suffered” this year.
Chelsea defeated Manchester United at Wembley thanks to Sam Kerr’s goal, which sealed the Blues’ third successive FA Cup victory. Hayes’s side could still claim a fourth successive Women’s Super League title if they win their remaining three games.
Meanwhile, the men’s team has endured a miserable season, sacking two managers in Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter, while caretaker boss Frank Lampard has overseen just one win and one draw in eight games since taking over.
It has sent Chelsea to a bottom-half finish in the Premier League, but Hayes said the women’s side’s continued achievements have restored a sense of pride at the club, including for Clearlake Capital co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali.
Hayes said: “I’m a football fan, and I’ve seen how much this club has suffered this year with ownership changes, and the men’s team hasn’t been brilliant. Chelsea fans, this is for you.
“I hope I’ve given you something you can smile at, including the owners.”
Hayes praised the mentality of his players after a long season that has seen Chelsea struggle on multiple fronts. Hayes admitted Chelsea’s first-half performance was among the “worst” he had seen in the FA Cup, but his team improved after the break and after the introduction of Pernille Harder and Sophie Ingle.
“Don’t underestimate how hard this is,” the manager said. “This is so impressive. We dug and we dug and we dug. We grew in the second half. United a wonderful team.
“I think our team has been in transition, with six different players in the starting XI until the final last year. My big problem is: ‘How can we continue to win during the transition?’
“So this year of trying to get as many players as there are chances and continuing to develop their experiences in all areas of the pitch and winning knowing we’re at that stage, this is by far my most memorable FA Cup final.”
It was the fifth time in nine years that Chelsea had triumphed in the masterpiece and another defining moment for Australia international Kerr, who latched on to Harder’s precise pass to score the winner on 68 minutes.
“I’ve never coached a player like her,” Hayes said. “For a player to have so many convictions, so much confidence, so much courage, the way she attacks everything.
“What I love about Sam is that she is willing to take responsibility for the team at the top of the court, but I think it’s important to mention Pernille Harder, because without Pernille Harder I wouldn’t have achieved that goal. So congratulations to the team, to the squad.”
Additional reporting by PA