Daily Mail

Hayes really is one of a kind, she will be missed


I HAVE heard many acceptance speeches at football dinners over the years, though nothing remotely like the one Emma Hayes delivered, without notes, at central London’s Landmark Hotel on Sunday night. ‘I remember when my dad was a very prestigiou­s, establishe­d ticket tout, we used to drive to the Landmark Hotel to drop off tickets,’ she related, early in a speech of such self-effacement, humour, realism and fundamenta­l wisdom that you understood precisely why any player would want to be in her number.

‘I used to sit outside and think, “That’s a posh hotel. I’d love to stay there one day”. Well here I am!’ Hayes did not try to dress up the unpleasant realities of management as she accepted the Football Writers’ Tribute Award, citing ‘cutting players, benching them or selling them’ as cons of the job. She also stressed the need to do these things well. ‘I always wanted to do it with a degree of humanity because it’s important,’ she said. ‘No one wants to work for an a***hole.’

It is customary on these occasions for the very famous player or manager to leave the room before the formalitie­s of the evening are over. But long after the speeches had concluded and the house lights had gone on in the Landmark banqueting hall, Hayes was still there, sitting at the end of the top table, patiently discussing whatever those of us approachin­g her wished to say. A rare kind of class. She will leave these shores this summer to manage the USA, at a time when our own women’s football is still looking for greater cut-through.

It feels like we should have moved heaven and earth to keep her. It is British football’s loss.

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