Kelly Smith backs Hayes and Chelsea to triumph in Europe just as she did with Arsenal Ladies

Kelly Smith backs Hayes and Chelsea to triumph in Europe just as she did with Arsenal Ladies

KELLY SMITH is backing Chelsea to steal Arsenal’s limelight by ending their spell of being the only women’s football club from England to conquer Europe. 

And the Gunners’ icon believes “energiser” Hayes will have her players “riled up” to knock Bayern Munich out of the Champions League. 

It was 14 years ago this week that Arsenal made history by becoming the first women's team from these shores to triumph in the contest.

They did so with a gritty 1-0 aggregate win against Swedish outfit Umea with Alex Scott netting the winner and Smith becoming the tournament’s third-highest scorer. 

Hayes was in the dugout for that victory during her stint as assistant manager to trailblazing Gunners Ladies boss Vic Akers. 

And Smith, 42, who missed the finals due to a suspension, has fond memories of Hayes' two-year tenure before her spell as Chicago Redstars boss from 2008 to 2010. 

Smith told SunSport: "Emma was a young coach and still learning the trade when she was at Arsenal. 

“But you could see she was hungry, passionate and a real energiser coach who really loved being out on the field. 

"She got massive amounts of experience coaching in America after leaving the club and really developed Chelsea’s game. They are very lucky to have her.  

"I hope they can perform, get to the final and try and take away Arsenal's mantle of being the only team to lift the trophy.

“And I'm sure Emma's going to get them riled up and ready. 

“It's a huge opportunity for them to get to the final and they're going to believe that they can do it being at home with that home advantage.” 

Chelsea, who take on Bayern at Kingsmeadow, are looking to overturn a 2-1 first leg semi-final deficit by toppling the German league leaders. 

And Hayes was tight-lipped on whether skipper Madga Eriksson will be available for selection after missing the first leg with a calf problem. 

However Smith, who netted 144 times in 125 Arsenal appearances, thinks Eriksson's presence could make a difference to Chelsea chances. 

Smith added: “I do think, having watched little parts of the first leg that they really missed Eriksson at the back.

“She's the stalwart there, the leader and organises that whole backline. Hopefully she can come back into the mix for the game.”

Smith, who is backing a smart meter campaign alongside sports stars including Nicola Adams, has been reflecting on the evolution of the WSL which turned ten this year. 

And the former England forward, who is the Lionesses highest scorer with 46 goals, hopes to see the top flight become more lucrative in the next decade. 

Smith said: “When I started playing we were only training two nights a week and trying to be full time athletes while juggling jobs. But now the game is professional.

“I’d like to see teams playing in bigger stadiums and generating bigger fan bases. 

“We've seen it with the special football weekends with derbies and where you get larger crowds coming to games such as Arsenal vs Spurs. 

“I also hope the WSL becomes self-funding and for clubs not to lose money. We’ve got a long way to go but we’ve just got to keep pushing.”

Smith, who won 20 trophies in three spells with Arsenal, is thought to be a strong contender to be an inductee into the Women’s Super League Hall of Fame. 

A panel of experts are due to decide on a shortlist from which the first Hall of Famers will be chosen.

The former Gunner, who played for Arsenal between 1996 and 2017,  has ideas on who she would like to see inducted.

And Chelsea’s Ji So-yun is among the names on her list.

Smith added: “It’s going to be difficult for whoever's on that panel to come up with the first couple of inductees. 

“The names that spring to mind for me are Rachel Yankey Alex Scott. Karen Carney and Faye White. 

“There’s also Fara Williams who's just retired, Steph Houghton, Katie Chapman and Jill Scott and Emma Byrne who was Arsenal’s goalie when I was there. She was a top-level player. 

“Even Ji So-yun at Chelsea. She's been around for a good number of years and been a high level performer for Chelsea.”

Kelly Smith is supporting the 'Get Britain Energy Fit For The Future' campaign. 

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