Where are they now? Emma Hayes’ first Chelsea XI
This season, Emma Hayes will celebrate her tenth year as Chelsea manager. The club Emma manages today is very different to the one who she took over from Matt Beard in August 2012 - then still known as Chelsea Ladies. That transformation is in no small part due to Hayes, who has been at the heart of driving change and increasing standards on and off the pitch. Chelsea are, in many ways, the club that Emma built. Hayes took to the touchline as Chelsea boss for her first ever WSL game on 22nd September 2012, against Bristol Academy.
There is little information available on the match - which says a lot about the coverage of the women’s game, 10 years ago. The opposition that day have gone through many changes of their own - now being known as Bristol City and playing in the Championship. There was a familiar face in the opposition dugout - the infamous Mark Sampson, prior to his controversial England tenure.
On the almost-exactly tenth anniversary of that game - and nearly 200 games later - it is an interesting throwback to look more closely at the first 11 players Emma selected for Chelsea. It is a very different line up to the world class personnel available to her now, but nonetheless an XI with names that will be fond and familiar to Chelsea FC Women fans.
Carly Telford (GK)-A name recognisable to all Blues fans, a club icon whose two spells bridge the gap between Chelsea old and new. Telford’s relationship with Hayes was tested when the keeper was released in 2013 - but they reconciled when she returned in 2017. Telford re-established herself as a key figure in the dressing room and was fondly regarded by all at the club. Carly left the club for the second (and final) time earlier this year, to join San Diego Wave - and will always be welcome back at Kingsmeadow.
Gemma Bonner- The centre back currently plays for Racing Louisville FC in the NWSL, following successful spells at Liverpool and Man City. Bonner spent just one season at Chelsea, and her quality as a player is evident in the clubs she has represented since leaving the Blues, as well as her 11 England appearances.
Claire Rafferty- A player who needs no introduction. “Raff” is a genuine Chelsea legend. After 11 years at the club, the full back and then longest-serving Chelsea player moved on to West Ham in 2018 for her final season as a professional. Since retirement, Rafferty has worked as a pundit, and now has a commercial role with Chelsea - making good use of her economics degree and experience working in finance, which she balanced alongside her playing career. This legend is still very much involved with the club where she made her home.
Dunia Susi- Susi was a versatile player who lined up for Chelsea in a variety of positions, spending a total of five years at the club in two different spells. She joined Notts County in 2014, and after the folding of the club the paper trail on Susi goes cold - and she does not still appear to be involved in the game any longer.
Danielle Bowman (Buet)- The midfielder made 50 league appearances for Chelsea, before moving on to the unfortunate Notts County - as a lot of the Chelsea prayers from this era seemed to have done. Buet then signed for Brighton, where she retired at the end of last season to take up a coaching role at West Ham.
Laura Coombs -Coombs was a regular starter back in 2012 but was to leave the club in 2015 after having seen her role reduced to more of a squad player. She was part of the side which won the domestic double with Chelsea that year - our first silverware as a club. Coombs then moved to Liverpool, before being snapped up by Man City - where she plays a key squad role, as an experienced WSL pro.
Sophie Ingle- The only player who started that day who remains at the club. This game came during the Welshwoman’s first spell at Chelsea, where she stayed for only one season before moving on to build a reputation of one of the true stalwarts of the women’s game, at Bristol and Liverpool. Ingle re-joined Chelsea in 2018, and since then has added her an experience and nous to our midfield (and defence, occasionally). The Wales captain has been an underrated contributor to our recent success.
Helen Bleazard- One of the less recognisable names, Bleazard forged a journey-woman’s pathway through the semi-professional levels of women’s football, before spending two seasons at Chelsea. She left for her hometown club Yeovil in 2013, following their promotion to the WSL, and after a spell in the top-flight is now playing her football in the lower leagues, at Plymouth Argyle.
Kate Longhurst- The midfielders’ biggest claim to fame at Chelsea is scoring in the 2012 FA Cup Final, which we lost on penalties to Birmingham, just a few months before this game. The 33-year-old has had a very respectable career - she is currently playing for West Ham in the WSL, and prior to that was a part of Liverpool’s side who won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
Helen Ward- Another name recognisable to keen women’s football fans, Ward is the all-time top-scorer for her country Wales and has had a long career in English club football. The striker signed for Chelsea from Arsenal in 2010, scoring 11 goals in three years at the club before moving on to Reading in 2013. At the age of 36 she is still playing for Watford in the Championship and is a regular on the women’s football podcast circuit.
Adriana Martin- The only non-British player to start for Chelsea that day, Spanish forward Adriana signed on a short-term contract for the club, playing just six games. She is currently playing for Lazio, where her superb goalscoring record fired them to their recent promotion to Serie A.
Many of the players from Hayes’ first XI are still playing the game, ten years later - but only one remains at Chelsea, in Sophie Ingle. The line-up in 2012 was reflective of our status then as a mid-table side in the pre-professional era, made up of mainly British semi-pro players.
Today, the Chelsea team is a multinational ‘Galactico’-style outfit, composed of international footballers who are elite professionals - and include some of the biggest names in world football.
Hayes’ decade at the club has seen the transformation of Chelsea into one of the biggest sides of the women’s game. That journey is evident in comparing her first XI to the team today - a progression which is also reflective of the continuing growth of the English game as a whole.