Emma Hayes has laid the blame for Chelsea’s failure to reach next term’s Women’s Champions League squarely at her own door.
The 42-year-old Blues boss extended her trademark candour to her own situation, admitting she had not reached personal standards at the start of the season.
In the wake of a 3-2 aggregate Champions League semi-final loss to holders Lyon – after Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Kingsmeadow – Hayes revealed adapting to motherhood has affected her managerial duties, insisting her players must not take any flak.
“I’m gutted we don’t have a trophy this season, but it’s not through a lack of effort, care or quality,” said Hayes.
“We’ve got to make sure we become clinical again, at both ends.”
Lyon edged through to their fourth straight Champions League final, leaving Chelsea unable to qualify for next year’s tournament with Hayes’ side incapable of a top-two Women’s Super League finish.
“It’s a massive blow we won’t be in the Champions League next season, but it’s my fault, not the players’,” she added.
“I had a baby, I wasn’t at my best at the beginning of the season, and it’s my responsibility that the players didn’t produce the performances in the early part of the season.
“But you know what, having a baby is really, really tough.
“To do my job eight weeks after giving birth, to the level that I expect from myself, means I’m human.
“And I really wasn’t good enough for the team.
“So I have to make sure I get fresh and get ready to make sure I’m at my best, so that there are no excuses whatsoever for the team, competing from the off.”
Hayes has also urged European chiefs to expand the Women’s Champions League.
Chelsea pushed Lyon, champions for the last three years, all the way before falling just short as the French powerhouses clinched a final showdown with Barcelona.
Now Hayes believes women’s club football across the continent is strong enough for the top leagues to merit three Women’s Champions League qualification berths.
“It really, really is time for the top countries in Europe to have three teams in the tournament,” said Hayes.
“England deserve it, and the same can be said for Spain, France and Germany.
“The quality is now definitely there for that. I think there is an appetite to expand as well, it’s more from the European Clubs Association who are pushing for that.
“It’s what we’ve been pushing for for three years. France has five full-time pro teams, we have 12 here in England.
“The quality in the product is such that perhaps they have to make the competition bigger. The evolution in the competition has to be the next priority.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P