It’s no surprise to see Chelsea Women boss Emma Hayes linked with the newly-vacant England job, such is her reputation in the women’s game.
With Phil Neville announcing his departure next year, it was only natural that one of England’s most talented coaches would enter the discussion.
But Charlton Ladies midfielder Ciara Watling expects Hayes to go one step further and become the first woman to coach in the men’s game.
It’s 2020 and the presence of women in the Premier League and the EFL remains practically non-existent, besides the introduction of female officials.
As far as coaching is concerned, though, no club in England’s top four leagues has ever been managed by a woman.
It’s a cultural barrier which will surely be knocked down one day, and according to Watling, Hayes is the perfect woman to do it.
“If one female manager broke into the men’s game, it would be Emma Hayes,” the 27-year-old told talkSPORT.com.
“With the presence she has and her knowledge, I think she would be really highly respected.
“I have a few friends who work under her and she just creates this incredibly professional, demanding environment.
“Her track record is amazing. The amount of times she just changes her game plan and it works for her. She’s just such a great tactician.
“She’s been on The Debate on Sky a few times – and whenever she gets scrutinised by the male pundits, she just bats it off.
“It’s not even a gender thing, she’s just a great coach. Who knows about the England job, but she could definitely make the transition to the men’s game. Watch this space.”
Hayes’ CV speaks for itself: two domestic doubles over an incredible eight-year spell with the Blues.
In fact, talkSPORT host Andy Jacobs actually called for Hayes to replace Maurizio Sarri as manager of the men’s team back in February 2019.
But besides her achievements, Watling insists Hayes’ extraordinary character will be enough to earn respect and make people forget about gender.
“Even when I’ve played against Chelsea, you get this feeling when she walks past you. There’s just this presence,” Watling added.
“It would be a huge thing, front-page news. If she went to a men’s club and just ran her usual training session, there would be no difference to a male coach.
“I don’t think people would judge her. She would have so much respect from the players.
“Female officials have come into the game and it’s slowly becoming the norm. It would be great if that was the same for women’s coaches.”
Still desperate to add the Champions League to her illustrious trophy cabinet, Hayes has distanced herself from the Lionesses job due to unfinished business at Chelsea.
Whoever does take charge will inherit a talented squad full of promise, one which Watling argues underachieved with Neville.
“From my point of view, I don’t think he achieved what he could have with England,” she continued.
“With the fantastic players he had and how they’ve been performing for their WSL teams, they had a great chance to win the World Cup [last year].
“It was disappointing when they came fourth. It wasn’t terrible, but from my point of view, he probably underachieved.”
As far as Watling’s own career is concerned, she is currently juggling a football business with her attempts to stay fit in lockdown, while also finding the time to learn Spanish and Dutch.
Like everything else, the Women’s Championship has been suspended indefinitely, with Charlton currently rooted to the bottom of the table.
No team will be promoted from the league below after tiers three to seven were all cancelled and voided, but uncertainty remains over how the top two leagues will be concluded.
“We’ve been told a few things, but we’re not sure either. Everyone’s still waiting on what the FA decides,” Watling added.
“All we know is the leagues below us have been voided. From my point of view, I’d love the season to continue.
“I’ve only played two or three games with Charlton. We’ve been training so much. We had the break, then we had the storms, now this. If it was just called off, it would feel like a bit of a waste.
“We want to finish the league, get some games on and get some wins. Even if relegation is voided, we don’t want to finish bottom anyway. All of us want it to be finished.”