Eni Aluko: Chelsea legend meets old club as Aston Villa sporting director

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Emma Hayes’s side will aim to reclaim their spot at the top of the WSL table against Aston Villa today. Manchester City currently occupy first place after a 1-0 win against Reading yesterday. The match will not just be a top of the table battle for Chelsea, however. The Blues will also be seeing a familiar face among the Villa contingent. 

Chelsea boss Hayes has not announced any new injuries for the match against Villa, but stars Maren Mjelde and Beth England remain unavailable for the Blues. Hayes may look to rest players, with the club's Champions League second leg tie against VfL Wolfsburg coming up on Wednesday.

The reverse fixture in January saw Chelsea make history with 4-0 win against Villa, extending their unbeaten run to 32 games. The victory also saw the Blues restore their place at the top of the WSL table. In a similar fashion, they will aim to do this again after falling one point behind Manchester City.

Emma Hayes's side has not conceded in the WSL since a 2-1 loss to Brighton at the start of February. Villa are likely to struggle to get on the scoresheet. They have only netted 11 goals this whole season, while the Blues have scored 52 times.

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The race for the golden boot is still on. Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr are still in the running and they will hope to add their names to the scoresheet. Tenth place Villa have the second-highest goals conceded in the league. The Chelsea duo will look to exploit this as they continue to chase Vivianne Miedema, who is currently three goals ahead.

As Chelsea play Villa at home for the first time in WSL history, they will welcome a familiar face – former player Eniola Aluko is now sporting director for the latter team. GiveMeSport Women takes a look at Aluko’s career so far.

On January 22nd 2020, Aluko announced her appointment as Villa’s sporting director on social media. This saw her return to the city she grew up in. She added: “#Full Circle Back to my hometown Birmingham, the city where it all began.”

The Chelsea legend raked up more than 118 goals for club and country. She has 102 caps for England, has appeared in three World Cups and two European Championships, and represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics.

Aluko has played for seven different teams. Her longest spell was at Chelsea from 2012 to 2018, where she scored 32 times in 72 appearances. This is where she won a majority of her accolades. She won the league in 2015, the FA Cup for the first time at Wembley, Chelsea Player of the Year, and played in the Olympics in front of 75,000 people. Before retiring from professional football, Aluko played as a forward for Juventus where she scored 15 times in 27 appearances.

In 2016, Aluko spoke up about Mark Sampson’s sexist and racist behavior. This led to the eventual resignation of the then England manager. The English international believed the FA failed to back her, however, and she didn’t return to the Lionesses’ set-up.

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Aluko’s career has inspired a lot of women of colour to become footballers. Most recently, the Chelsea legend spoke up about the lack of diversity in the Lionesses squad. Their most recent match contained just one non-white player. Casey Stoney, the manager of Manchester United, agreed when she said earlier this month that the “very white” Women's Super League had a greater diversity challenge than the men's side.

Not only has Aluko shined on the pitch, but she also completed her A levels at Cadbury College in Birmingham while playing for England in the 2005 European Championship. She then went on to study law at Brunel University, where she graduated with a first-class degree in 2008.

She has represented Olympic athletes like cyclist Victoria Pendleton and snowboarder Jenny Jones at a sports law firm and worked on the image rights of Chelsea footballer Eden Hazard. She also wrote her first book “They Don’t Teach This”. The English star has achieved a lot in her career on and off the pitch and aims to replicate her success post-retirement.

Aluko will be welcomed back to Kingsmeadow with open arms.

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