Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has insisted it was her decision to leave the Blues at the end of the current season as she seeks a better work-life balance.
Hayes announced her shock departure on Saturday afternoon, just minutes after the Blues’ thrashed Aston Villa 6-0.
The announcement overshadowed the win and has taken up many of the recent headlines. Now, speaking for the first time since her announcement, Hayes revealed her reasonings for departing the club after 11 years.
“I’ve been in post for 12 years, I’ve dedicated my life to this place,” Hayes said. “I drive four hours every day, six days a week for 12 years. I have a 5-year-old that needs more of his mummy for sure. That’s important, family matters.
“And I think I’ve dedicated as much as I possibly can to this football club. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Hayes’ son, Harry, is the main focus for the 47-year-old, who wants a better work-life balance after being deprived of quality time with her only child.
“It was my decision,” Hayes said of her exit. “As I said, 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 and 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.
“I think there’s still a lot of work to be done in the women’s game for people with children. We have lives. This is not a selfish decision, this is a selfless decision. This is about putting first some other things in my life and I’m ready for that.”
Aiming for a better work-life balance, Hayes said the flexibility that a national team head coach job can bring would be a massive bonus but maintains that she made the decision based on her needs of her and her family.
“I think picking someone up from school is incredible,” she said. “You can talk about those experiences. I look forward to picking him up from school, taking him to after-school club and doing some other bits. Just having a little bit more flexibility.”
The Chelsea boss has won it all. Six WSL titles (plus the 2017 Spring Series), five FA Cups, two League Cups and a Community Shield. While the Champions League trophy has eluded her with the Blues, Hayes did win the competition as an assistant with Arsenal Ladies in 2007.
“This is my club and it will always be,” Hayes reflected. “While I’m sad on many, many levels, I have said to the fans there will be a moment where I’m sat with them in the crowd. I look forward to that. For now, the focus is on the game.”
Hayes revealed that, similar to the success plans she creates for players, she intends to work with assistant manager Paul Green to ensure her successor is equipped to maintain her success.
The formidable manager would not give an indication as to who her successor may be and also declined to respond to rumours of Chelsea’s desire to tie her down to a lifetime contract before her decision to leave: “Conversations that are private between my club remain private on my end and I will maintain that.
“It’s quite unusual that you have one manager in place for 12 years. I didn’t envisage I’d be anywhere else but that’s life and I will be. I know my goal is to make sure I leave this dressing room in the best possible place.
“I know that when I started here it was always my goal to leave it in a better place and I’ll make sure on my way out that I do absolutely everything to make sure this football club stays at the top.”
The 47-year-old confirmed that her players found out about her exit just after the 6-0 win on Saturday, shortly before Chelsea went public with their statement. Hayes left it until after the game to announce her exit, wanting the players to hear it from her due to her exceptionally close relationship with them.
90min understands that Hayes is set to take up a job with the USWNT at the end of the season, but the Chelsea icon opted to remain tight-lipped on her future, although she did elaborate on her previous confession that she dreams of a transition to international management.
“As a little girl I always thought maybe one day that would come,” she added. “For most of us we don’t necessarily fulfil every dream we have.
“I’d probably say that would always be an ambition of mine, to do that. I think I’m just at the point where I have to consider something else, and that’s the position I’m in right now.
“I don’t contemplate anything more than taking these decisions – [they] don’t come easy. For some it might have come as a surprise or a shock last week. I’m putting the team and the club first.
“I want to give our football club the right preparation time so they’re ready to continue after me.”