I REMEMBER Emma Hayes pulling me to one side at Arsenal and telling me I could be the best right-back in the world one day.
She was assistant coach at the Gunners from 2006 to 2008 when I was at the club, and I could tell she would go on to do big things.
It’s no surprise she was linked to the top job at AFC Wimbledon, to become the first woman to manage an elite men’s side in this country.
Emma is a brilliant, committed leader and has a holistic approach with players.
She gives thoughtful, constructive criticism which has such a tangible impact on her players. She even took time out of her week to do individual training sessions with me.
Emma has built a dynasty at Chelsea over her nine years.
Casey Stoney recently revealed that players could not even get a tracksuit at the Blues when she was interim manager in 2008.
So for them to now share the men’s Cobham training base, have their own stadium at Kingsmeadow and be competing in the Champions League is a huge testament to Emma.
But credit must also be given to Denise Reddy, who became the West Londoner’s new No 2 in August last year.
She has done brilliant things in the American league and it was a really smart move for Emma to recruit her.
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Once again it proves, in the best way, that Emma doesn’t like to sit in her comfort zone.
The club’s TWO-YEAR record run of 33 games unbeaten came to an end against Brighton last weekend.
They quickly reacted to that disappointment by beating the Gunners in midweek.
That shock loss against the Seagulls might have been a wake-up call and will make them even more ruthless.
But as fans of the women’s game, this is what we love to see.
We want a competitive edge to the games and not just the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal running away with the title.
The Gunners may not even be in contention for a Champions League spot this term but — as much as it pains me to say it — that’s brilliant for the development of women’s football.
It’s great to see smaller teams causing upsets like we have seen in the Premier League this season.
When the WSL was created in 2010, Hope Powell was very outspoken about ensuring there was more parity across the division.
She has done so much to push women’s football on, and it wouldn’t be professional right now without her and everything that she has fought for.
When Hope was England manager she broke down barriers to get where we are today, attracting the best players from across the globe.
So with the greatest respect to all teams — for the love and benefit of the women’s game, I’m thrilled Hope’s Seagulls beat the champions and ruffled a few feathers!
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