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    Hayes says motherhood changed her as a coach as Chelsea prepare for battle with Barcelona

    EMMA HAYES reckons Chelsea will be the underdogs in their first-ever Champions League final in a season she sees as her toughest.And becoming a mum has changed Hayes’ outlook on coaching with her son Harry celebrating his third birthday a day after the Blues’ duel with Barcelona. 
    Emma Hayes is looking forward to celebrating her son’s third birthday after Chelsea’s clash with BarcelonaCredit: Sportimage
    Chelsea hope to win their first major trophy in Europe after clinching their fourth WSL titleCredit: Getty
    Hayes, 44, was speaking ahead of her WSL champs historic clash with one of the most feared women’s football clubs in Europe.
    Their Barca opponents netted 128 goals whilst winning 26 games on their way to a sixth domestic title win. 
    But Hayes welcomes the pressure of taking on Spain’s top flight giants when the teams go head-to-head at the Gama Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden.
    Hayes said: “For once we are the underdogs – in the bookies’ eyes I might add.
    “But I also think we are approaching our best form. I think you can see that even in our performance against Reading. 
    “I think the fact they are overwhelming favourites by the bookies suggests that form over a period of time has earned that right for them.
    “They have been building towards their own Champions League success.
    “But I really believe there’s another level in us.
    “I’m so looking forward to the game and watching us find that level again and seeing how we can compete for the honour of being champions of Europe.”
    Hayes’ Chelsea side are targeting a quadruple trophy this year having already won the Conti Cup and WSL titleCredit: Reuters

    Victory for the Blues would see them secure the treble and their first major trophy win in Europe at the end of a season at times overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. 
    It would also see them become only the second English club to win the coveted prize following Arsenal Ladies memorable triumph in 2007 against Swedish side Umea.  
    Hayes said: “You have got players who haven’t been able to see their friends and family. 
    “All of a sudden they’re having to spend an entire year with the same people and nobody else.
     “I think it’s probably been the toughest in my tenure for those reasons and Covid for sure is unprecedented and something I’ve never had to deal with. 
    “When you’re in my position you have to make the decision of whether you are willing to manage such challenges in order to fulfil your greatest ambitions, knowing it’s going to cause daily pain. 
    “It has been challenging and it’s a thankless job coaching because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. 
    “While I care about every one of my players, I also have to stick to the task and that’s winning games of football and trophies.”
    Vicky Losada and her Barcelona team-mates have won the 26 games they have played in Spain’s top-flight this termCredit: Getty
    Chelsea’s seismic clash with Barcelona – whose squad includes former Arsenal players Asisat Oshoala and Vicky Losada – will take place the night before the birthday of Hayes’s young son Harry. 
    And the Blues boss, who has led Chelsea to nine trophy wins – including four WSL titles – says motherhood has made her sporting successes even more meaningful.  
    Celebrating my son’s birthday is as important to me as walking my team out in the finalEmma Hayes
    Hayes said: “I know people say my son Harry changed me as a coach. Karen Carney always says it and I wouldn’t disagree with that. 
    “I think becoming a parent changes everyone. I feel that with every game that is played or a title we contend for, I take it in more than I’ve ever done. 
    “I don’t think about the game next week as I’m very much in the present. I don’t look at calendars.
    “I wouldn’t be in this job if it wasn’t for my family. My family are the ones who allow me to go to work every day because they help with child care. 
    Every parent knows how hard it is to juggle work and juggle your kids. 
    “My mum walked into the house on Monday and said ‘I’m just letting you know, this is the plan for Harry on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.’
    “I’m sitting there thinking what am I going to do?
    “I don’t want to ask’ and she took it right off my hands. 
    Hayes being a mother has boosted her feelings towards Chelsea’s successesCredit: Getty
    “My family’s support is what has allowed me to do my job.
    “This and remaining present is something I’ve learnt from ageing and understanding that this won’t be forever.  And I will enjoy every minute of it.
    “Flying home (from our match against Barcelona) on what will be the morning of my son’s third birthday will be a fitting day. 
    “Celebrating his birthday is as important to me as walking my team out in the final.”
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Victory against Barcelona would see Chelsea become the second women’s team from England to win the Champions LeagueCredit: Getty
    Emma Hayes gets stuck into Chelsea training More

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    Carla Ward takes aim at club owners after sensationally quitting as Birmingham City boss after months of turmoil at club

    CARLA WARD took a swipe at Birmingham City’s owners after she sensationally QUIT as manager.The departing Brum boss revealed she would have loved to have stayed at the helm but conditions at the club made it impossible to do so.
    Carla Ward has become the third manager to leave a WSL side this week with Joe Montemurro and Casey Stoney departing from Arsenal and Man UnitedCredit: PA
    Ward has been in charge of the Midlands side since August 2020 following a two-year spell managing Women’s Championship side Sheffield United.
    And the former Blades coach – who enjoyed a 14-year midfield playing career – had intended to see out her contract with Blues.
    But after internal conflicts with the board, her position with the Damson Park side became untenable.
    Ward, 37, said: “Everybody that knows me knows I don’t go down without a fight.
    “I want to push and knock on every single possible door first, and try to find a way.
    “So of course I would have liked to of stayed, I would have liked to have seen out my contract and be here for a little bit longer.
    “But ultimately, it’s just the position that becomes. I don’t think we can continue to work in the capacity we’ve worked.
    “So ultimately, that’s what really confirmed my decision.”
    Women’s football has been growing over the years at the game’s highest levels with more top clubs establishing women’s teams.
    While Ward thinks this is a good thing, she questioned whether clubs have the knowledge of what the resource and commitment required to accommodate a women’s team.
    And after her experience with Birmingham, the former Blades boss wants more clubs to consider these factors before setting up a team.
    Ward added: “I think that everybody want’s a women’s team, but I think it’s really working out where women’s football fits in their organisation.
    “And do all football clubs understand the size of women’s football? The importance of women’s football?
    “I think they’re questions that every single club should be looking at each year when they’re looking at how their women’s club is set up.”
    Birmingham Women players went head-to-head with the club’s board members over working conditions and payCredit: Rex

    This season Ward and her squad have been wrangling with Blues board members about poor working conditions, contracts and pay.
    And after pleas for them to invest in the women’s side seemingly fell deaf ears, Ward says she began to consider her position.
    The situation within the club prompted Ward to seek a fresh start although she admitting to having some “unbelievable times” with Blues.
    Ward said: “It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of months.
    “It’s been an unbelievable year and an emotional year.
    “It’s been tough at times, but it’s an opportunity that I’ve loved every minute of, but ultimately I believe I’ve given everything I’ve got.
    “And I believe now it’s time for a fresh chapter.
    “One thing I will say is I will be forever grateful to Blues for allowing me to step into this division and work with an exceptional bunch of players who have given everything.”
    Ward had an emotional meeting with her players to inform them of her departureCredit: Rex
    Despite Ward’s frustration with the club, officials thanked her for her services and for helping them to avoid relegation.
    Birmingham Women general manager Sarah Westwood said: “I would like to put on record my thanks to Carla for her efforts and dedication to the position throughout the season.
    “It has been a challenging year given the absence of Blue-noses from any of our fixtures, with Carla galvanising the players and staff to achieve what nobody outside of the Football Club deemed possible.
    “We respect her decision and wish her all the best for the future.”
    One thing Ward says will miss is her tight-knit bond with her players.
    After the obstacles they faced together this year, the departing Birmingham boss said sharing her exit with them was “devastating.”
    Carla Ward steered Birmingham to safety with the club finishing one place above the drop zoneCredit: Rex
    Ward added: “I come in this morning to tell them, I had it rehearsed in my head what I was going to say.
    “I don’t cry in front of anyone, but after the first two words, I had a complete meltdown.
    “But I think it probably sums up how I feel about the group.
    “You know, it’s devastating to share that with them because you know we’ve stuck together this year, it’s been tough.
    “Really, really tough and I’ll be lying if I said it wasn’t emotional from everybody in that room.
    “But ultimately I think the time is right to be stepping away.”
    Birmingham have another chance to make Ward proud when they face Southampton in the Women’s FA Cup fifth round in what will be her manager’s final game in charge.
    The Isle of Wight-born coach believes her side will have to be at their best against their National League side to avoid an upset.
    Ward revealed she has no plans to immediately return to management and intends to spend quality time with her daughter.
    But when she does return to the dugout, she hopes it will be back in the Women’s Super League.
    Birmingham will play Southampton in the fifth round of the Women’s FA CupCredit: Rex
    Ward said: “We’ve absolutely got to be at it against Southampton because you can’t take them lightly.”
    “It’s just about getting to the end of the season, getting Sunday out of the way.
    “The immediate future will be to have a little bit of time with my little girl and relax and reflect.
    “I don’t particularly want to get out of the WSL. I love it, I’m not going to lie.
    “It’s a league that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.”
    Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Ward’s WSL colleague Stoney resigned from her role Manchester United managerCredit: Getty
    Ex-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri could be in line for Arsenal and Tottenham jobs if Mikel Arteta is sacked after flop season More

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    Sam Kerr dismisses doubters and hopes ‘electric’ Chelsea can beat Barcelona in the Champions League

    SAM KERR holds no grudges towards doubters who criticised her early Chelsea performances – and says they can post her a bottle of wine.  And the Blues goal machine reckons her team’s “electric” attacking form could give them the edge against Barcelona in the Women’s Champions League final. 
    Sam Kerr has proved her doubters wrong with her clinical form for ChelseaCredit: Getty
    Kerr and her team-mates hope to win their first Women’s Champions League trophy this termCredit: Rex
    Kerr, 27, was speaking to reporters ahead of the WSL champs’ clash in Sweden with the queens of women’s football in Spain.
    The game on Sunday comes a week after the striker stormed her way to the top of the WSL’s goalscoring table, bagging 21 goals in 22 top-flight games.
    And Kerr’s outstanding form marks a turnaround for the forward who came in for flack for chances squandered during Chelsea’s Community Shield triumph against Manchester City last August. 
    When asked what she would say to doubters Kerr said: “People get paid to write headlines and all that stuff and they’ve obviously got it wrong this time. 
    “I don’t have anything to say. They can just send me a bottle of wine in the mail as an apology.
    “The season has been long and there have been so many ups and downs.
    “But winning titles just makes it all worth it. So it’s not all roses and butterflies for sure, but at the end of the day I do it because I love it. 
    “There are hard days but I do enjoy it for the most part.”
    Chelsea will wear their new 60s-inspired kit in their clash with BarcelonaCredit: Instagram / @chelseafc

    Chelsea, who will don their new 60s-inspired kit against Barca, are targeting a quadruple and their first-ever major club trophy win in Europe. 
    Kerr’s formidable partnership with team-mates Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder has played a big part in helping the Blues reach the Champions League final.
    The trio netted 16 times for boss Emma Hayes in the run-up to their battle with Barcelona.
    The WSL top dogs dispatched Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich, two of the most feared teams in Europe. 
    Kerr added: “Fran’s clearly shown she is one of the best players in the world. 
    “She does it week in and week out for our team. Our connection is just special.
    “Everyone asks me if we train like it but it just comes naturally. 
    “She’s just a superstar. I can’t speak more highly of her.”
    Kerr and Kirby hope to be on target against Barcelona with the duo scoring nine goals in the Champions LeagueCredit: Getty
    Chelsea will face a Barcelona side in red hot form having netted 128 goals in 26 games on their way to their sixth La Liga Women’s title. 
    And Barca are yet to triumph in the Champions League having reached the finals once in 2019, where they were thrashed 4-1 by Lyon. 
    Kerr reckons the Blues’ clinical finishing and ruthlessness on the counter could work in their favour.  
    The clash on Sunday will see Kirby and Jennifer Hermoso – the contest’s joint top scorers – go head-to-head for the contest’s Golden Boot, with both on six goals.
    The Matildas captain added: “Looking at our team we’re electric going forward.
    “I think on the counter-attack we’re six to the creek so I think that’s going to work in our favour against Barcelona.
    “They’re a quality team so we’ll definitely have to have a look at them in-depth and we’ll focus on ourselves.
    “But we also have to respect their strengths and weaknesses.”
    Chelsea will face a Barcelona side who have scored 128 goals in Spain’s top-flight this termCredit: Getty
    Helping Chelsea reach their first final of a contest for Europe’s elite women’s football sides is another big milestone for Kerr, following her 2019 switch from Chicago Redstars.  
    The six-time Golden Boot winner still holds the all-time scoring record in America’s National Women’s Soccer League, with 77 goals, and Australia’s W-League (70).
    And Kerr feels her move to Chelsea has given her the opportunity to develop her game at a club she describes as the best she has ever played for.  
    We’ve got players like new Niamh Charles and Melanie Leupolz who have taken the team to a new levelSam Kerr
    Kerr added: “The USA suited who I am as a player and coming here I’ve had to adapt and I think that’s mostly how I’ve grown as a player. 
    “It was to challenge myself doing things that I’m not as confident doing. 
    “As a team we’ve had so many amazing recruits in the last year and gone from strength to strength.
    Kerr reckons players such as Niamh Charles have helped Chelsea step up a gear this seasonCredit: Getty
    “We’ve got players like Niamh Charles and Melanie Leupolz who have taken the team to a new level. 
    “This team is incredibly talented and it’s hard to make the starting line-up. 
    “We’re pushing each other and I feel like this is probably the best Chelsea team I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely the best team I’ve ever been a part of.”
    Kerr, Ji So-yun and their Blues team-mates hope to win the quadruple this yearCredit: Prime Media
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Emma Hayes gets stuck into Chelsea training More

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    Chelsea send fans into frenzy after mistakenly announce Lauren James’ signing by adding her to their new kit list

    CHELSEA have seemingly announced Lauren James’ signing after adding her to the kit list for the upcoming season on their website.The Manchester United star’s name comes up in the list of players that can be added to a shirt when fans go to buy one with the number 24.
    Chelsea have added James to their kit list for the new seasonCredit: PA

    The club have not yet made a comment on the blunder.
    Several supporters took to Twitter to express their joy at the Blues’ incoming signing.
    One user revelled in the news and said even though the club don’t need James, it would be satisfying to steal her from United.
    They wrote: “Lauren James to Chelsea. I know we don’t really need her at the moment cos we have enough attackers already but anything to drink United tears, bring it on!!!”
    The 19-year-old striker would be joining her brother Reece at the club and another fan begged God to make it come to fruition.
    She said: “Wait omg, God please make it true.
    “Lauren James is coming to Chelsea? one of the best forward out there.
    “So we are going to have brother and sister in Chelsea.”
    This isn’t the first time James has been linked with a move to the Blues.
    Earlier this month reports circled about Emma Haye’s side plotting a swoop for the starlet, along with French side Lyon.
    Her departure will be a huge blow for United who are still reeling from the loss of boss Casey Stoney who resigned yesterday.
    The move would see her join brother Reece at the clubCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd

    Just last month Stoney publicly lashed out at tech boss Mark Zuckerberg for failing to clamp down on the virtual bullies.
    In a post on Zuckerberg’s Instagram platform she wrote a post questioning his values and character for allowing the vile abuse to continue.
    Similar racial abuse in the sport led to all clubs across the country to take part in a social media blackout, in a bid to force social media bosses to do more in the future.
    Manchester United steward accused of opening gates to let fans storm Old Trafford pitch during protest More

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    Ex-Bristol boss Matt Beard thrilled to be back as manager of Liverpool Women

    MATT BEARD hopes to restore Liverpool Women to their former glory after announcing his return as the club’s manager. The former West Ham gaffer is back in Merseyside six years after leaving the team to coach US club Boston Breakers before spells with the Irons and Bristol City. 
    Matt Beard is hoping to lead Liverpool back to the Women’s Super LeagueCredit: Rex
    Liverpool finished third in the Women’s ChampionshipCredit: Getty
    And the ex-interim Robins boss beat 160 applicants to the top job to manage the former WSL giants. 
    Beard, 43, said: “When you are working here and living and breathing it and what the football club means to the city and its fans, I’ve experienced that from the success we had in my first period here
    “My family and I loved our time in Liverpool and we’re really looking forward to going back 
    “My memories from before are nothing but great memories and they’ll always live with me.
    “But it’s about what I do this time around and getting the team back into the (Women’s) Super League. 
    “One thing I can promise the football club and the fans is that I will work as hard as I can to get us back into the (Women’s) Super League.
    “I’ve come here to get the team promoted, it’s not going to be easy and it’s probably going to be the toughest Championship season ever.
    “But we have a good core group here and the infrastructure is there.
    “It’s about recruiting the right players to improve the team and making sure we have one common goal as a group to achieve what we want to achieve.”
    Beard first took up the reins at Liverpool back in 2012 leading them to back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. 
    Beard led Liverpool to successive WSL title wins in 2013 and 2014Credit: Getty

    And the Roehampton-born coach led the club on their first Women’s Champions League campaign in 2015 before departing for managerial spells at Boston Breakers, West Ham and Bristol between 2016 and 2021.
    Liverpool had been without a permanent manager since Vicky Jepson resigned from the role in January.
    And Jepson’s assistant Amber Whiteley has been serving as interim boss leading the club to a third place finish in the second tier of the women’s game.
    The club’s chiefs hope Beard can lead them back to the top-flight following their relegation to the Women’s Championship in the 2019-20 season. 
    Their board members said: “We know him (Matt) particularly well from his highly successful previous spell with the club and have followed his progress closely.
    “But this is an appointment for the future. We believe Matt’s experience and know-how can help the club in our quest to return to the Women’s Super League. 
    “Much hard work lies ahead and we believe Matt is ideally placed to lead that journey.
    “The future of the women’s game looks incredibly bright and we want to be right at the heart of it.”
    Liverpool are targeting a return to the top-flight of the women’s game after being relegated in the 2019-20 seasonCredit: Getty
    Beard enjoyed a stint in the NWSL managing Boston Breakers from 2016-2017 before returning home to take charge of West Ham in 2018 and leading them to the Women’s FA Cup Final in 2019. 
    The Reds gaffer left the Hammers at the end of 2020 by mutual consent before joining Bristol City as interim boss in January. 
    Beard steered the Robins to a Conti Cup final and two wins from his first five games in charge. 
    But the Twerton Park team have dropped into the Women’s Championship after drawing three and losing four of their last seven WSL games. 
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Liverpool Women had been without a permanent manager since Vicky Jepson’s departure in January 2020Credit: PA
    Rio Ferdinand, Jens Lehmann and Robin van Persie star in BT Sports new women’s football series Ultimate Goal More

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    Stoney resigns as Manchester United Women’s manager amid reports of interest from US clubs

    CASEY STONEY has resigned as Manchester United Women’s boss days after her team narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot.   Stoney’s surprise resignation comes almost two months after she said she would consider it a “personal failure” to miss out on the contest.  
    Casey Stoney has resigned manager of Man United’s Women’s Super League sideCredit: Getty
    Stoney is reported to be on the radar of NWSL clubs in the United StatesCredit: PA
    The former centre-back, 38, has been at the helm of the Red Devils since June 2018 following the team’s reestablishment in March that year. 
    And the ex-England skipper led the team to a swift promotion to the WSL from the Championship in 2019 achieving successive fourth-place finishes in two seasons. 
    The Telegraph reports Stoney, who began her journey as a footballer at the age of 12 at Chelsea, is thought to have been displeased with the training conditions for her side in recent months. 
    It is also thought clubs from around the world – including the top-flight women’s sides in the USA – are interested in the straight-talking United gaffer. 
    And The Athletic claims the WSL boss is in talks to head up an NWSL expansion team in San Diego.
    Stoney, whose team are due to face newly-promoted Leicester City in the Women’s FA Cup fifth round, said opting to stand down had been an ‘incredibly tough decision’. 
    The club is yet to confirm whether the former Chelsea player-manager will take charge to the side during their clash with the Foxes.
    In an official club statement, Stoney said: “It has been an honour to lead the women’s team at this great club and this has been an incredibly tough decision. 
    “Having come on board to start the team from scratch, then winning the Women’s Championship in our first season, we have now successfully established the team as a force in the Women’s Super League. 
    “I have loved leading this group and I am proud of what we have achieved together.
    “However, after a difficult season with the disruption caused by the pandemic, I now feel the time is right to take some time away and for someone else to come in and lead the team on the next stage of its journey. 
    “I want to thank the club, all of the fantastic staff, the fans, and most of all the players, for the incredible experience we have shared over the past three years.”
    Casey Stoney led Man United to promotion to the Women’s Super League within two years of the club being reformed in 2018Credit: Getty

    United chief executive Ed Woodward added: “Casey has been a driving force behind that success since she joined us in 2018.
    “She has been an inspiration to her players and staff, fans, and to all of us.
    “I know I speak for everyone in thanking her for her unstinting hard work and dedication and paying tribute to her achievements.”
    The Red Devils’ match with the Foxes on Sunday will be the club’s final game this term with Women’s FA Cup competition resuming again next season. 
    The team, whose players include England stars Ella Toone, Katie Zelem and Millie Turner, finished just a point behind third-placed Arsenal in the top tier.
    And the Gunners’ top three finish saw them bag the WSL’s last remaining Women’s Champions League qualifying spot.  
    United have struggled with injuries to several first-team players this season including  Alessia Russo, Leah Galton and US superstar Tobin Heath. 
    Man United are due to play Leicester in the Women’s FA Cup fifth roundCredit: Getty
    But while the club endured losses to Reading, Man City and Arsenal in February and March, they won six of their last games across all competitions keeping clean sheets. 
    Prior to coaching Stoney enjoyed a stellar 19-year playing career representing Arsenal, Charlton, Chelsea and Liverpool between 1999 and 2018. 
    The former Lionesses ace, who captained Team GB women’s football team at the London 2012 Game
    And the former Lionesses defender began her coaching career at Chelsea in 2009 before joining Phil Neville’s England backroom team in 2018 and then becoming Man United Women’s boss.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Manchester United will be hoping to qualify for the Women’s Champions League in the 2021-2022Credit: Getty
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    Chelsea ace Kirby and Barcelona’s Hermoso in Champions League Golden Boot battle as clubs prepare for final

    FRAN KIRBY and Jennifer Hermoso will slug it out for the Women’s Champions League top scorer mantle when Chelsea and Barcelona meet in the contest’s finale.Both stars have six goals apiece with Kirby’s scoring twice against Bayern Munich in the competition’s second leg semi-final.
    Kirby is in pole position to win the Women’s Champions League Golden BootCredit: Getty
    Kirby and Barcelona forward Jennifer Hermoso have netted six goals each in Europe this seasonCredit: EPA
    But Hermoso, 31, has scored her tally in as many games while Kirby, 27, reached her total in eight appearances.
    The pair are closely followed by Hermoso’s hotshot team-mate Lieke Martens, 28, who has racked up five goals in the competition.
    Kirby and Hermoso both also notched 16 goals domestically this season which helped propel their sides to lift their respective league trophies.
    Kirby scored another double in the Blues’ 5-0 win over Reading to help seal a fourth WSL crown for Emma Hayes’ side.
    Meanwhile, Barca cruised to the La Liga Women’s title in style with eight games to go and an unbeaten run in the league to match.
    The Spanish giants clinched their sixth top-flight trophy after accruing 26 straight wins and a stunning tally of 126 goals.
    And Lluis Cortes’ team are ahead of Chelsea in the overall European goalscoring charts with 24 goals compared to the Blues total of 21.
    But Kirby and her team-mate will be aiming to turn those statistics around in their first-ever Women’s Champions League final.
    Hermoso was lost for words upon after Barcelona beat PSG to set a Champions League final duel with Chelsea
    And the England forward knows what it takes to win in high stake games after netting a brace to help Chelsea trounce Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate in the contest’s semis.
    Kirby, who has made 18 WSL appearances this season, was also on target twice in Chelsea’s 6-0 Conti Cup thrashing of Bristol City.
    And SunSport columnist Alex Scott believes Kirby could help her team-mates end a 14-year trophy drought for English clubs competing in the Women’s Champions League

    The former Reading forward’s contribution to the Blues quest for a quadruple has led to her being crowned the WSL’s Player of the Season.
    The award win is among the highlights of a remarkable turnaround for Kirby who a few years ago was told she might not play again due to a rare heart condition.
    And she will have to be at very best to out-do Hermoso who says seeing Barcelona reach the final is ‘indescribable’.
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Kirby helped Chelsea win their fourth WSL this seasonCredit: Prime Media
    Emma Hayes gets stuck into Chelsea training More

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    WSL champs Chelsea sign PSV Eindhoven star Aniek Nouwen as Hayes strengthens defensive ranks

    ANIEK NOUWEN has become Chelsea’s newest addition with Emma Hayes looking to boost her defensive options ahead of the 2021-22 season. The PSV Eindhoven star sealed a three-year pre-contract deal with the four-time WSL champions which will keep her at the club until the summer of 2024. 
    Aniek Nouwen has agreed to a move from PSV Eindhoven to WSL champions ChelseaCredit: Getty
    Nouwen signed a three-year pre-contract with the Blues which will run until 2024
    Nouwen, 22, who has 14 Netherlands Women’s international caps, made her professional debut for PSV in 2016.  
    And the highly-rated defender has made more than 100 appearances for the Women’s Eredivisie giants netting 15 goals. 
    Blues boss Hayes reckons Nouwen’s physical strength on the ball will make her well-suited to battling Chelsea’s rivals in the WSL next term. 
    Hayes, 44, said: “Not only does Aniek bring a wealth of league and international experience for her age, but she is also very composed on the ball and her physicality will certainly suit the English league.
    ‘I have no doubt she is one of the best young defenders in the world and has a very bright future ahead of her with us.
    “We cannot wait to welcome her to Cobham this summer. She really is an exciting addition to our squad.”
    Nouwen added: “To play in the English league has always been a dream for me as it is the best competition and it provides the best opportunity for me to develop even more. 
    “There were other clubs who were interested, but I made my decision to join Chelsea pretty quickly.  
    “I’m very honoured and proud to become a Blue and I can’t wait to be a part of this winning team. I want to win prizes and play in the big games.
     “I’m looking forward to joining up with the team, it’s all going to be very new but I’m really excited.”

    Chelsea, who will push for a fifth WSL title next term, are going head-to-head with Barcelona in their first-ever Champions League final on May 16. 
    Meanwhile, Nouwen and her PSV team-mates are battling for the top spot in the Eredivisie play-offs. 
    And PSV are due to take on Den Haag for the Dutch Women’s FA Cup in June after beating Ajax 1-0 in the semi-finals. 
    Nouwen, who made her senior Netherlands debut against Poland in 2019, has become a key member of Sarina Wiegman’s squad making 14 international appearances. 
    The versatile defender was part of her country’s youth sides at the 2018 and 2017 Women’s Under-19 World Championships reaching the contest’s semi-final stages in 2017.
    Emma Hayes looking to strengthen her defensive ranks with Chelsea targeting a fifth WSL title next seasonCredit: Getty
    Nouwen, who plays for the senior team alongside WSL stars including Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk, netted her first international goal against Estonia. 
    And that 7-0 win against the European minnows – ranked the 106th best team in the world – helped the Netherlands reach the Women’s 2022 Euros. 
    The PSV star is also hoping to represent her country at the Tokyo Olympics in Japan this year.
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    Nouwen says having the chance to play in England has always been ‘a dream’Credit: Getty
    Emma Hayes gets stuck into Chelsea training More