BY PAUL LAGAN
Two-goal Erin Cuthbert tries to put into practice on match day what she’s worked on during the week in training, and says boss Emma Hayes is not afraid to give her a telling off if needed – but she loves it all, takes it in and is producing the performances of her life that have marked her out as one of the young stars of the world game.
Cuthbert, 20, scored both goals as Chelsea Women beat league leaders Arsenal 2-1 at Boreham Wood’s ground this afternoon.
Firmly established in third place in the WSL1 and hot on the heels of Arsenal who have dropped to second place due to Man City’s 3-1 win at West Ham, Chelsea have now won 11 games in a row in all competitions.
Scotland international Cuthbert , pictured, said: “It was a tough game honestly, our third game in a week.
“Fatigue was starting to show at the end, but credit to Arsenal. We always knew they had a second wind in them as well. They showed that but defensively we have been solid all season apart from the last Arsenal game (where Chelsea lost 5-0), so we always knew we would be good in defence – it was whether we would get the goals.”
Cuthbert’s first goal was a stunning first half header. Something of a surprise to Cuthbert.
Did she have springs in her boots?
“Honestly I don’t know – I never score headers,” she said.
“It was a real honour for me to score a header.
“I just jumped and anticipated. I done one in training actually on Saturday and it didn’t go in, the keeper made a good save. Emma (Hayes) said to me during the week, ‘It’s going to come.’
She said ‘It’s gonna come Sunday, trust me’ – and you know what, Emma never fails to deliver. So she has done well there. I really appreciate the confidence and trust she has in me.”
Cuthbert’s second was a screamer of a volley – not a surprise to her.
“I practice a lot in training,” she said. “I’ve not been scoring a lot of late, it’s a lot of pressure on a striker or forward player to score goals. I’ve been trying to assist, but I’ve been missing that part of my game – scoring, so it was nice to get two goals.”
Emma Hayes says the aggressive forward is a dream of a player that come along once in a while – what does she think to that?
“Well that’s big words from Emma,” said Cuthbert. “She never tells me that. She always keeps me on my toes, She’s always telling me how it is. She’s brutally honest at times – even if she knows I don’t like it. She’s fair but tough with me, and that’s the way I like a manager, and she’s really developing me. I’ve seen a massive difference in myself in the past two years. I think my future lies with her.”
Are Chelsea back in the title race or Champions League reckoning? Cuthbert is unsure but hopeful.
“Good question, I don’t know,” she said.
“We could actually win every single game until the end of the season, and it still not enough for the Champions League. So honestly I can’t tell you that. I just know that we can control everything we can, and we are in a great run right now, and I want to keep up that run.
“After the international break we have a big run of fixtures as well, a lot of games coming thick and fast. So people can drop points, that’s why we have the squad for a reason.
“There is no pressure on us. When we were league leaders last year, we felt the pressure, I felt the pressure. Especially as a young player, it’s a pressured environment, so its nice for us to be relaxed and in a chasing position. We will enjoy that and embrace everything that come from that.”
Chelsea’s only league defeat was the 5-0 drubbing by Arsenal, in October at Kingsmeadow – is revenge sweet?
“We knew we did not give a good account of ourselves, we had a couple of chances in that first game as well,” she said.
“We started well. But we did not put anything away.
“So for me, what’s been crucial these past few weeks is getting an early goal, a fast start in the first half. We’ve not been doing that at the start of the season. We dropped points because we got nervous. Yes, It’s been in the back of my mind. We are footballers, we have vivid memories about things that haunt us, so we did not want that to happen again, and luckily it hasn’t.”
Cuthbert believes that striker Bethany England is playing well enough to warrant a call-up for England. Lionesses boss Phil Neville was in the stand watching the lone striker.
“She has been excellent, top goalscorer I think,” said Cuthbert.
“Her attitude to come back from a loan spell and the way she has conducted herself in training. She works her socks off in training and in games. You don’t just see her turn it on in games, she does it in training, every single day. She deserves the praise she gets. And who knows she could get an England call-up soon.
“I think for a manager, you should be looking at that. You should want to work with people who have great attitude and application, who fight for their badge they are playing for.”
With the World Cup coming up in the summer, Cuthbert is on the cusp of an extraordinary season – but she wants to keep her feet firmly on the ground.
“I’ve got to keep working hard,” she said.
“For me everything I show and do on the pitch is actually done on the training pitch.
“I’m replicating things on the pitch I’ve done on the training pitch. And I’m learning a lot off Emma defensively and tactically. So I’ve just got to keep my feet on the ground, and stay injury-free.”