Emma: Ditch the Conti Cup

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Ditch the Continental Cup, says Blues manager Emma Hayes in her most outspoken attack yet on a competition that she believes is little more than an annoying distraction.

Hayes went on the warpath after defeating Arsenal in the league, to go second in the WSL table.

“Get rid of it! Make more league fixtures!” she said, pleading with the authorities to take a radical approach, to allow the WSL teams to focus on winning the league, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

“Get rid of the Continental Cup! How are we going to get continuity?”

Hayes’ suggestion – if you only have a dozen teams in the domestic top flight, simply play each other three times each season instead of two.

Scotland’s premier tier sees double derbies, so why not bring in a similar system in English women’s football?

“If you want a Conti Cup, put it in WSL2,” she added. “Why are we diluting our product in the WSL with this competition and that competition?”

Part of Hayes’ argument is that the Conti Cup matches deny her squad much-needed recovery time between games.

She cited the example of Fran Kirby, pictured, who is steadily returning to full fitness after a prolonged injury, and said that both club and country owed her a duty of care.

“There’s huge expectation on that player, but it’s very important for everyone to know that she has made her way back from really, really critical injuries. She effectively has four kneecaps!

“You need to understand that. A very explosive player, like she is, might need more time to recover. So it’s important we build her through this period. You can’t just go from zero to 90 minutes. No, she isn’t anywhere near at her best, but you know what, she’s come through another game today and she grew in confidence through that game.

“I value her life and I value her career; you have to protect her because there aren’t many talents like Fran Kirby, believe you me, and not over-expose her. We need to manage her career properly, and I have a responsibility to do that, and England has a responsibility to do that.”

Kirby picked up an injury during one of Chelsea Women’s pre-season games, out in Israel, and – like her Blues colleague Erin Cuthbert – only started full training again ahead of the recent Tottenham match at Stamford Bridge on the season’s opening weekend.

The Blues’ next Conti Cup match – whether Hayes likes it or not – is on Sunday October 20 at 2pm at Hayes Lane, when Chelsea Women are away to Palace.