By Alice Reeves-Turner
CHELSEA Women manager Emma Hayes hit out at ‘insulting’ claims she’d be stepping up to manage AFC Wimbledon.
Hayes’s side are unbeaten in 33 games in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and have another silverware shot in the League Cup.
The 44-year-old, who continues to be linked with the Dons and was touted as a possible replacement for Frank Lampard in the men’s job, slammed the notion.
“I just don't know why anybody would ever think women's football is a step down,” Hayes said.
“How coaching World Cup winners, players who have represented their country in the Olympics or European Championships, is a step down from anything.
“I think the football world needs to wake up and recognise that women’s football, while the game is played by a different gender, is exactly the same.
“Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder, Beth England, Magda Eriksson, Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde - do you want me to keep going? These are world class players.
“Women's football, in its own right, is something to celebrate. It's an insult to them that we talk about women's football being a step down, with the dedication and the commitment and the quality that they have.
“I manage and represent elite world class players. And this, for me is an amazing job that I've spent nine years cultivating all my energy into. I'm not looking for another job.”
Hayes has won three Women’s Super League titles, two FA Cups and one League Cup in her nine years as manager.
Chelsea have mounted a strong defence of the League Cup and face West Ham, who sit 25 points behind them in the league, in the semi-finals.
Skipper Magda Eriksson welcomed rumours linking Hayes with a move.
“I understand that Emma is on the market and people want to grab her”, she said. “She's been getting great results with us.”
“We are a long way from [a woman managing in the EFL]. I think it's positive that there are rumours; at least the question is out there. It's getting talked about.
“I hope Emma stays and then I hope she doesn't feel like she's finished with us yet. But I think we do need more diversity in the leadership roles on the men's side.”
“It is about time that this gets talked about.”