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Chelsea at heart of women's revolution - but more help is needed

Chelsea at heart of women's revolution - but more help is needed

16/04/2018 at 12:01Updated 16/04/2018 at 13:01

There was a drop-jaw moment for Chelsea live on TV this weekend, and it even managed to eclipse coming back from 2-0 down at Southampton to win three points.

Teatime Sunday, prime time on the BBC, and the incredible progress made on the Blues' march towards domination was clear for all to see. The six names on the PFA Women's Players' Player of the shortlist were revealed and five of them were players for Chelsea.

Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, Ji So-yun, Maren Mjelde and Ramona Bachmann made up the shortlist, with only Manchester City's Jill Scott breaking up the wall of royal blue.

Chelsea marked the occasion by marching into another FA Cup final: their unopposed two goals in the semi-final against Manchester City coming from the runaway favourite for both solo awards, the 24-year-old Kirby. She has been the difference for Chelsea this season, and has seemingly been unable to stop scoring. If women's club football needed a star whose presence can capture the imagination of an unacquainted public, then Kirby is the one: and the remarkable thing is that she is still very much learning her trade.

The exposure she, and her team-mates, received on Sunday will have been priceless to the development of club and sport, as millions watched in their front rooms.

Inside the ground more than 3,000 were assembled at Kingsmeadow: a very impressive crowd, but one with plenty of scope for improvement. And, as the game grows, that is one of the areas in which those who run it could do with a little less naivety.

General view outside before the UEFA Womens Champions League Quarter-Final Second Leg between Chelsea Ladies and Montpellier

General view outside before the UEFA Womens Champions League Quarter-Final Second Leg between Chelsea Ladies and MontpellierGetty Images

Into one cup final, and battling to reach another: Chelsea Ladies welcome Wolfsburg in the semi-final of the Women's Champions League this coming weekend. When the game was scheduled for 6pm on Sunday, the sigh was audible: an hour after full-time in the men's side's FA Cup semi-final against Southampton at Wembley – an impossible journey to make in that time by any transport means, give or take a helicopter.

So an announcement of a kick-off time change on the Chelsea FC website was warmly greeted by those keen to attend both ties, until it was clear it would be shifted by only five minutes. An opportunity missed to go that extra mile in winning hearts and minds, at a time when they are rapidly being lost by the club's male first team.

Wolfsburg were the side that knocked Chelsea out of Europe in both of the last two seasons, so this will be a good opportunity to test Blues boss Emma Hayes' insistence of October 2016 that English sides were "years behind" their German counterparts.

Should they succeed over two legs, a final awaits in Kiev on May 24. Before then, the side will battle to retain their top spot in the Women's Super League (the final round of fixtures comes on May 20) and, of course, to lift the FA Women's Cup – a feat which has eluded them since 2015.

Katie Chapman of Chelsea hugs Fran Kirby and team mates after Kirby scores their third goal during the UEFA Womens Champions League Quarter-Final: Second Leg match between Chelsea Ladies and Montpellier

Katie Chapman of Chelsea hugs Fran Kirby and team mates after Kirby scores their third goal during the UEFA Womens Champions League Quarter-Final: Second Leg match between Chelsea Ladies and MontpellierGetty Images

Chelsea's men seem a long way away from the dominance of the game once threatened by this side. But in the women's game, something special is developing: and Chelsea, right now, are at the very heart of all that is going on.

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