Fran Kirby is determined to make the most of her time in the England squad as she looks to cement her place in the team ahead of next summer’s home Euros.
Kirby has been in and out of the Lionesses set-up for the last few years due to a combination of illness and injury. In November 2019, Kirby was diagnosed with pericarditis, a rare condition that is caused by fluid and inflammation of the sac that protects the heart.
The illness left her barely able to walk and kept her out of the game for eight months and the 28-year-old came close to early retirement.
Fran Kirby (above) is determined to make the most of her time in the England squad as she looks to cement her place in the team ahead of next summer’s home Euros
The Chelsea forward returned to the game at the start of last season and enjoyed one of her best campaigns, scoring 16 goals and making 11 assists as the Blues won the WSL title, Conti Cup and reached the Champions League final.
But while Kirby was flying at club level, she endured a frustrating time with England as injuries ruled her out of several camps.
But with new boss Sarina Wiegman now at the helm, Kirby is fully fit and eager to get a run in the side before next summer.
‘It’s really important (to play),’ Kirby said. ‘Last year I got my first injury while I was away with England so that was quite difficult because I really felt like I was kicking on at club and I wanted to be here and play well.
‘I played in an in-house game and really enjoyed it and then obviously picked up the injury which was disappointing and then you’re fighting to try and get back quicker.
Kirby (left) has been in and out of the Lionesses set-up for the last few years due to a combination of illness and injury
The Chelsea forward returned to the game at the start of last season and enjoyed one of her best campaigns, scoring 16 goals and making 11 assists as the Blues won the WSL title
‘I’m feeling good at the moment, so I want to make sure I keep building in this team and learning from Sarina and what she wants and getting into this group. I think it’s good at the moment, the group is in a good place. It’s probably in one of the best places that I’ve been in a long time in this group. Everyone is just ready to go.
‘We’ve had some good wins over the last few camps but we know that this camp and the Austria game is going to be a bit more challenging. I think it’s going to show a different side to us, hopefully we can rise to that challenge.’
‘Not at the time, when I was ill. But when I started to get back, to train and I started to do things again, it wasn’t that I believed that I could do it, it was that I was just trying to force myself, I was just telling myself every day “do what you can and see what happens”.
‘I didn’t have any expectations to achieve what I did last year and take that in to this year, it was more just taking each game as it comes. That’s taught me a lot in terms of this year as well, I’m not getting caught up in anything, just taking each game, each training session. I don’t think I would have believed it at the beginning but when I was training I thought I could really go for it and push on now.’
Kirby admitted she now places more emphasis on rest and recovery, especially with the hectic schedule that comes with Chelsea playing in the Champions League group stages for the first time.
With new manager Sarina Wiegman (above) now at the helm, Kirby is fully fit and eager to get a run in the side before next summer
Kirby now places more emphasis on rest and recovery, especially with the hectic schedule that comes with Chelsea playing in the Champions League group stages for the first time
‘I’m in the pool every day, I’m doing ice baths every day after training, I’m going late in the evening to do extra recovery at a gym. It is just 24/7 constantly thinking how can I get my body prepared to go again and again and again.
‘We’ve had a tough schedule these last few weeks and it’s been a lot of travelling, a lot of difficult games so to manage yourself in that capacity is tough. It’s not easy, you get niggles, you get little things that maybe keep you out. But it’s understanding when you need to take an extra day, just to allow yourself, your body to recover and then go again, because it’s intense what we’re doing.
‘I think for me before, I was so worried about doing the same as everyone else, always comparing always, “she’s on the training pitch so I need to go on the training pitch today”. And then I’d just break down eventually.
‘It was just understanding me and understanding what is the most important thing for me right now? Is it to go out and start smashing 20 balls in the back of the net? Is it to maybe take extra time to do some foam rolling or get a massage? So it’s just learning those differences.’
England play Austria on Saturday in what will be the toughest game they have faced in their World Cup qualifiers so far. The Lionesses have won their past four games by an aggregate score of 32-0 but this should prove to be a closer encounter.
‘It’s exciting for us. The level of opposition we have been playing hasn’t tested us as much as we’d have liked.
‘It’s great for us that we’re scoring goals and conceding none but you want to be challenged, you want to see where you actually are in terms of playing against better oppositions.’