Triumphant Chelsea manager Emma Hayes pointed to back-to-back defeats in July as the catalyst behind her team’s first-ever FA Women’s Super League with BT Sport 1 title win.
A double from record signing Fran Kirby, and a goal apiece from Ji So Yun and Gemma Davison secured an emphatic 4-0 win over Sunderland to ensure there would be no repeat of the final-day heartache suffered in 2014.
That day, dropped points at Manchester City handed Liverpool the title and reduced Chelsea’s players to tears.
Chelsea 4-0 Sunderland
FA Women's Super League with BT Sport 1
Sunday 4 October
Wheatsheaf Park, Staines Town FC
But this time there were tears of joy and Hayes said consecutive defeats to Sunderland and City in the middle of the season kept the hunger amongst the squad to get the job done.
“I think they needed to lose in July because I think they were finding it too easy,” said Hayes, who also guided Chelsea to victory in the SSE Women's FA Cup Final in August.
“Sometimes you need that setback, a reality check and a reminder of what you have and what you could lose.
“So losing those games back-to-back set us up for the FA Cup Final and the Final gave us confidence of being a winning team.
“Everyone at the club has been behind us 100 per cent and you could see how important it was for Chelsea to win and play our part in the club.
“We are no longer second-class citizens anywhere in women’s football anymore, women are always welcome at Chelsea and we breed champions now.”
Striker Kirby moved from FA WSL 2 side Reading to Chelsea following the World Cup and has been an instant hit at Wheatsheaf Park, with seven goals in eight games.
And the 22-year-old said it was an incredible feeling to have ended her debut season in the top flight with such success.
“It’s been an incredible year for me,” said Kirby. “Coming to Chelsea half way through the season and with a lot of pressure on me, and on all of the players as well, because we were top of the league. So to win the league is amazing.
“I’m really pleased to have scored but that’s all down to the other girls on the pitch as well, because I give back what they give to me so I’m really delighted."
She continued: “Every young girl looks up to you as a role model and Chelsea are one of those teams that girls will aspire to play for, so being able to score in front of all these people and on TV to show that we didn’t buckle under the pressure and dominating the game was really important for us.
“We knew we needed the first goal to settle the nerves, but even going in [at half-time] a goal up was a bit nerve-wracking because if they score they’re back in the game, so the second goal was even more important than the first.
“Going forward is one of our driving forces but I don’t think we can forget about the back four and the midfield who put in a solid performance, because they didn’t let Sunderland have anything.”