18 November 2022

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes relishing return to dugout at sold-out Stamford Bridge

18 November 2022

Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes said she could think of no better way to return to the dugout than by taking charge of her team at a sold-out Stamford Bridge for Sunday’s London derby against Tottenham.

The clash is one of three Women’s Super League fixtures moving to Premier League grounds this weekend, with the men’s top flight on hiatus during the World Cup.

Hayes, who is celebrating her 10th anniversary at Chelsea, has been absent for more than a month after undergoing an emergency hysterectomy in early October, but has watched on from home as her side have kept pace with league leaders Arsenal during that time.

“Telling my doctors that my first game back was in front of 40,000, they were like, ‘Really?’,” Hayes said. “I’m about ready for that, though, and the club have done so well to be able to sell out, as many clubs have done in the WSL.

“I’m just really looking forward to seeing the fans and to get the chance more importantly to be with my team again. There’s no better place to play than Stamford Bridge.”

Hayes returned to work during the international break, although she said her recovery is not complete.

“It’s nice to be back,” she said. “I’ve had six weeks of recovering and I’m still recovering. I still think it will take probably through the rest of this year to return to complete normality, but I’m just grateful to feel a lot better.

“I’m happy to come back to a team that’s been doing really well in my absence and to be around the players and staff again.”

Telling my doctors that my first game back was in front of 40,000, they were like, 'Really?'

Denise Reddy and Paul Green took charge during her absence, with Hayes keeping touch from her sofa.

The success of the team, who have won all six games during that time, has helped ensure the experience was not a frustrating one.

“I didn’t mind it,” Hayes said. “I had an earpiece with Denise and only in the Man United game did it stop working in the second half, but I was happy with the way the team was playing.

“I feel so confident with the work my entire staff are doing that sometimes those conversations were just interactions between Denise and I.

“She’s done a superb job anyway without me being there, along with Paul. We’ve got such an experienced group that it’s been comfortable for me to heal without the stresses.”

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