In her new regular column with BBC Sport, Chelsea Ladies striker Eniola Aluko talks about Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea Ladies team and selection for the England Womens team.
The Chelsea Men’s team won the title with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace last Sunday, Eden Hazard’s penalty rebound enough to win Chelsea their first Premier League title since 2010.
“The whole ladies’ team went to the Palace game at Stamford Bridge and it was truly inspirational to witness the atmosphere and see the fans buzzing afterwards. It was hard not to go to bed with that spirit in our minds and it definitely helped as we hung on to beat City by the same scoreline.
“It’s great to be part of Chelsea right now. The men’s team have also triumphed in the League Cup this season, while the youth team won the Uefa Youth League and their version of the FA Cup last month.
“But one thing you learn at a club the size of Chelsea is there will always be critics.”
24 hours later, Aluko hit the post as the Ladies beat their Manchester City counterpart 1-0 in the FA Womens Cup semi final, and will now face Notts County in the final.
Incredibly, the Female Blues have a 100% record in all competitions this season. But Aluko, whose brother Sone plays for Hull City, says that it was a case of team nerve after Chelsea Ladies were pipped to the title post on the last day of last season:
“We had a lot of people questioning our bottle. We were referred to as the ‘nearly team’. Reaching the FA Cup final for the second time in our history suggests we have rewritten that narrative.”
Jose Mourinho has now won his third Premier League title with Chelsea, and the charismatic 52-year old is a brilliant inspiration to have about the club, says 28-year old Aluko:
“I think Mr Mourinho’s opponents should regard him in a different way too. In my view he is one of the greatest managers that has ever lived.
“He’s a tactical genius, an incredible winner, and he gets the best out of his players and they all respect him – I don’t know what more you could ask for from a manager. I find him inspiring.
“Some teams get criticised for playing attractive football away from home when they don’t win. Others play more directly and also receive abuse. The main thing is that people always respect winning teams and it’s unfair to describe Chelsea as boring. At the start of the season, they were playing immaculate football and the way the Premier League is so attacking now, I don’t think it’s possible to win it by playing boring football.
“We have won our last three games 1-0, which some would say is a Mourinho style of playing.”
This season sees the first FA Womens Cup Final to be held at Wembley, as women’s football increasingly grows in support, talent and popularity around the country. Notts County, Chelsea’s opponents, have never been in a FA Cup final before, but it will be just as special an occasion for Aluko:
“It’s quite hard to describe what playing at Wembley means. Every little boy and girl with a desire to play football dreams of playing there and now the players in our side have realised that ambition. It is made even more poignant given that opportunities to do so have only recently arrived for women’s players.
“Fortunately, I have already had a taste while representing Great Britain in the London 2012 Olympics and for England against Germany last November, but doing it with your club feels different. I speak from experience when I say it has this impact that affects everyone in your life – family, friends, team-mates and coaches.
“It is another huge step for women’s football and it would be great if we could get a good crowd on 1 August against Notts County to make sure it becomes a regular fixture in the women’s football calendar.”
But in the short term, Aluko, who is also a qualified lawyer, is looking to be selected by England Women’s boss Mark Sampson to be in the squad for the Women’s World Cup in Canada. The striker has scored 32 goals in 89 appearances for the national side:
“There is nothing you can control other than your own performance and I’ve worked hard and given my all for my country, scored goals to help us qualify and really enjoyed improving under Mark and his England staff.
“Sure, there will be nerves before Monday, but as players we won’t be discussing whether we think we might make it or not. You have to respect that other potential squad members will be feeling different emotions so you just have to wait it out.
“The time to talk about it with team-mates will be once the squad is announced.”