Emma Hayes has compared developing Chelsea Women into a trophy-winning team to nurturing a child.
The 45-year-old has been awarded an OBE for services to football in the New Year Honours List in recognition largely of her work in helping the Blues establish themselves as the top club in the English game.
Since taking over as manager from Matt Beard in August 2012 she has led Chelsea to 11 trophies, including four Women’s Super League titles, but insists it has been a painstaking process for her and everyone else at the club.
“I always compare growing Chelsea to having a baby, that you’re taking from early years to a toddler. Chelsea Women, in my eyes, as a professional outfit, is 10 years old,” Hayes told the PA news agency.
“The growing pains that you have to go through to do that can be tumultuous, but patience is the key, and also so are the setbacks.
“Everyone looks at our journey and is like ‘well, whatever they’ve spent money’. People don’t realise we had to go from the ground up, that we had nothing, and everybody inside the club has grown the team to where it is today.”
Hayes, who signed a new contract with Chelsea in July, says she feels a sense of “guilt” and “embarrassment” to receive an OBE, when in her mind the club’s success is a collective achievement.
Asked who had been instrumental, she said: “I have to mention the club, starting from our owner (Roman Abramovich), who has been a key ally, very supportive.
“(Director) Marina (Granovskaia), (chairman) Bruce Buck – Bruce has been very supportive ever since I have been at the club. The whole club (has been instrumental) that’s what makes Chelsea special – the interactions and our ability to go upwards and across quite easily. Not everybody gets that opportunity at clubs.
“Externally I always have to say (thank you to) my family because they have to suffer, they have to help me out a lot so that I can do what I love to do.”
Born in Camden in north London, Hayes first coached in the United States before serving as assistant coach and academy director at Arsenal between 2006 and 2008.
She returned to the US before taking up the Chelsea job, and while the silverware has been sweet, it is something else Hayes savours most.
“My greatest memories are going to be the people I met, the players I have been able to coach and the staff I have been able to interact with and my colleagues across the business that I’ve been able to engage and be like-minded with. My memories are the people,” she said.
Hayes’ ambitions are for the women’s game to continue to develop, with a real emphasis on ensuring clubs all the way down the pyramid benefit from the increase in revenues.
“My ambition has always been that the women’s game, by the time I’m finished in it, is in a much better place than it was. I feel like the progress that we can still make is in and around the financial side,” she said.
“I’d still like to influence prize money, because the prize money influences the trickle-down effect and I want to see the whole game benefit in the way that the men’s game does.
“So if you’re competing in the FA Cup, we’re getting prize money that sees teams in the lower tiers benefit, and that there’s a better compensation for the investment in the development that every single club makes, not just the top clubs. That’s probably the big one.”
Former Chelsea men’s assistant manager Steve Holland was also recognised in the New Year Honours, receiving an MBE.
Holland worked alongside England manager Gareth Southgate as the Three Lions reached the final of Euro 2020 in the summer – their first major final appearance in 55 years.