Those following the exploits of Chelsea Ladies FC this season will no doubt have been dazzled by the performances they have been served by the West London club.
Coach Emma Hayes has assembled one of the most talented squads in Europe, and that has been backed up a semi-final appearance in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and a forthcoming final in this Saturday’s Women’s FA Cup against Arsenal.
For attacking midfielder Karen Carney, who is likely to miss this weekend’s showpiece due to injury, the form of her club has come as no surprise.
“We’re a top, top team and the Champions League experience against some top clubs has shown the level we needed to get to,” she said.
“Credit to the club for giving Emma what she needed. I am not surprised at all by what we have achieved. I look around at this team and I see so many top young players.”
It will be Carney’s former club Arsenal looking to halt Chelsea’s bid for a second Women’s FA Cup, with the match seeing the two sides paired against each other for the second time in two years, with the Gunners coming out on top 1-0 in 2016, thanks to a moment of brilliance from Danielle Carter.
But this is a very different Chelsea side to the one that turned out that day. The Blues had five players nominated for PFA Player of the Year this year – only three of those were part of the side that last two years ago (Millie Bright, Fran Kirby and Ji So-Yun). The other two nominees, Norwegian captain Maren Mjelde and Swiss wing wizard Ramona Bachmann, have thrived this year, alongside a number of new additions.
Carney, one of the more experienced members of the squad at 30, knew when joining the club that she would not always be a guaranteed starter, having been so at former club Birmingham. But the Lioness not only claims that she knew the move to Chelsea would be a challenge, but she also says it extended her career.
“I knew it would be a challenge coming here, so if I see out my contract, I’ll be really pleased,” she confessed.
“Chelsea made my career longer, without doubt. When I first came here, my body wasn’t responding. But the club has a fantastic medical team that looked after me – I’ve had a long career and I wasn’t getting the right treatment before I joined Chelsea, even having to pay for it myself at times.”
The medical team at Chelsea, her teammates, and the ongoing influence of Emma Hayes, who Carney worked with as a youngster at Arsenal, are all factors, she says, in her still having the hunger to succeed and achieve even more in the game.
Hayes also took the Birmingham born midfielder with her America when she was coach of the Chicago Red Stars during the now defunct WPS. It was a sign of the belief Hayes had in Carney’s talents, who at only 21 at the time, was already an established international, playing in the EUROs that year, and winning a silver medal.
“Emma has been a big part of my career; I wouldn’t have come to Chelsea if not for her.
“I listen to her, I trust her because of her experience. She pushes me that extra little bit.”
Carney’s absence from the side will have allowed her to be an observer of the game over the last few weeks, and no doubt she will have had some wise words for her teammates during her time on the sidelines.
But having worked with the likes of Hayes and Vik Akers, does coaching appeal to her?
“I’d never say never, but I don’t think it’s for me,” she revealed.
“I enjoy the media work I’ve done, but I have a Masters in Psychology, so I’d also think about working in a team on that side of things – maybe do that in the week and work as a pundit or scout at the weekend.”
There is no denying that Carney is still a key piece of Emma Hayes’ side, and while she may not feature this weekend against Arsenal, she still has a lot to offer and will be a key piece of the puzzle for both club and country moving forward.