Fran Kirby has been backed to flourish with England at the World Cup and is glad to be back playing the sport she loves after everything she has endured off the pitch.
At the age of 17 she quit the game after suffering from delayed depression following the sudden death of her mother three years earlier. During this stage of her life she recalls being docked a mark for her defending abilities in her PE coursework but now the Reading striker sees the funny side.
“That was quite a while ago now and it’s quite funny to watch it back and see how I was in sixth form,” she said.
Kirby, 21, who grew up watching Arsenal and idolising Thierry Henry, remembers being urged to make the most of her footballing talent by her mother. “She would just say, ‘Enjoy every minute of doing it,’” Kirby said. “She always wanted to make sure I was enjoying my football, and I’m getting rewarded for my performances.”
Two years later, she rejoined Reading and, in her first season back, scored 33 goals. Last year she became Reading’s first professional female player and proved particularly influential, scoring 29 times in 22 games.
In February Kirby was awarded with player of the match when England lost 1-0 to the United States and was impressive against Germany at Wembley last November. More recently in a friendly against China she made an instant impact, setting up Jodie Taylor in the first minute with a scintillating run and cross before scoring the second herself.
England’s assistant manager, Marieanne Spacey, believes Kirby has the brightest of futures. “The girls love her and the staff like working with her,” she said. “We want her to keep getting better and moving to the next level and then the next level again.”
England’s first game of the tournament is against France in Moncton on Tuesday.Reuse content