Claire Rafferty has tipped Emma Hayes to lead Chelsea to Women’s Champions League glory this season, and kick-start a long-term crossover to the men’s game.
Highly accomplished and decorated Chelsea Women boss Hayes last month poured scorn on speculation linking her with a switch to League One’s AFC Wimbledon.
Former Chelsea and England winger Rafferty hailed Hayes for her candour in scotching those Wimbledon links, but backed the current Blues boss to carve out a successful managerial career in the men’s game in the long-run.
Chelsea Women take a 2-0 lead into Wednesday’s last 16 second leg with Atletico Madrid, with Rafferty buoyant on the Blues’ chances of claiming ultimate glory this term.
“I think Emma’s not shy in saying she wants to win the Champions League, and until she does that I don’t think she’ll quit domestic football,” Rafferty told the PA news agency.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised to see her making that transition over to men’s football, or to the international stage.
“The way she responded to that AFC Wimbledon speculation I thought was spot on, because it just shows the respect she has for her squad. And it just shows that men’s football isn’t a step up from the level of the women’s game.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be seeing this crossover from managers from the women’s to the men’s game. Because in my eyes if you’re coaching at the top level it’s the same.
“She’s the only person who could have put it like that, because the speculation was about her. She could have ignored the rumours, but she stuck her head out.
“And actually she turned it into an opportunity, to consolidate the quality of the women’s game.
“I think she’s had more of an impact than saying that by denying it, or even taking up the opportunity.
“I really do think Chelsea are in the perfect position to win the Champions League this season.
“I know it’s a bold statement, but the calibre of players they have in the squad, the mentality that we saw last week, the depth of the players, the investment from the club not just for players for infrastructure and environment.
“There needs to come a time when someone knocks Lyon off that pedestal – and I think that time is now.”
Rafferty has followed her 18-cap England career and 11 years at Chelsea by moving into the Stamford Bridge club’s commercial department.
While tipping current Chelsea Women’s boss Hayes for a long-term move into men’s coaching, Rafferty insisted the men’s game requires greater off-field equality.
“Women coaching men’s teams should become the norm, there shouldn’t be that gender segregation,” said Rafferty.
“Football is football, it doesn’t change. So if someone’s qualified with their A licence there should be equal opportunities.
“I really do think we should be seeing more women coaching in the men’s game.
“It just goes back to seeing it, a lot of women growing up can’t see themselves in that role because there’s not really been anyone who’s gone before them.
“But as soon as we break that cycle I think we’ll get an influx of women into the men’s game. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was Emma who makes that move first.
“Emma’s success, it’s attention to detail really; and the mindset, the investment in the human.
“A lot of it is about making sure players are understanding, making sure they are given the best opportunity to perform and making sure they are happy.
“It’s not just about the football pitch, it’s about your life around that, and family and everything else.
“And one of the key components of Emma’s success is because she treats the players like humans. And that for me is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much while I was there.”
:: BT Sport has live coverage of Atletico Madrid Women v Chelsea Women in their round of 16 second leg fixture in the UEFA Women’s Champions League from 12.15pm on Wednesday, March 10 on BT Sport 2.
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