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An inspired leader in waiting

02 October, 2017 — By Catherine Etoe

Emma Hayes: a dream favourite for England

IT was all kicking off this time last week: the media were going bonkers as England manager Mark Sampson was ousted from his job, while the bookies were already running odds on a list of potential replacements – one of whom was dead.

We can fully expect the media to run full pelt with the story again next month when a parliamentary committee is expected to grill the FA on its handling of the debacle.

In the meantime, England have no manager. Which brings us back to the bookies; among the genuine (living) contenders with some of the shortest odds was Camden’s very own Emma Hayes.

The 40-year-old Chelsea manager, who holds a UEFA Pro Licence and has worked in the professional league in America, has won the FA Cup and league titles as Blues boss, and was also Vic Akers’s assistant in Arsenal’s Quadruple winning year.

A pretty fine CV for a kid from the Curnock Street estate who worked in sports development for Camden Council before kicking on in the women’s game as a coach and manager in America.

Back in 2001 I interviewed Emma for this newspaper a few weeks before she left for New York and Long Island Lady Riders. Fresh-faced and ambitious, she was already a bright, energetic, champion of the women’s game.

Now, 16 years on, she is a high-achieving role model and independent thinker.

She would be good for England, a coach who would pick on form, and a woman who knows how to deal with big name players.

For now, though, she has ruled herself out of the job. “I’m flattered but I’m happy at Chelsea,” she told me this week. “I’ve got unfinished business here and I want to win the Champions League.”

The former Parliament Hill School pupil says that she would like the job to go to another Arsenal old girl – former manager Laura Harvey, currently boss of USA pro side Seattle Reign.

“She is a bright, experienced, woman who is right for the job,” she said of Harvey, who won a string of honours, including two Women’s Super League titles with Arsenal.

Harvey, along with Hayes, was one of four women with Arsenal connections whose names were pounced upon by bookies as the next potential England boss.

There were also odds on former striker Marieanne Spacey and Gunners legend Kelly Smith too.

Whoever applies for, and gets the job, I hope it is a woman. That is not about political correctness or fears over safeguarding. It is about having female role models in positions of national importance to encourage more females to take up playing and coaching.

Emma Hayes has already inspired girls from Camden and beyond to believe that they can achieve greatness in sport; a female England boss would surely do the same.

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