Interview with Chelsea and England star Fran Kirby

PUBLISHED: 11:16 28 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:16 28 June 2016

Proud to have three lions on her shirt. Photo: Tom Shaw/The FA/Getty Images

Proud to have three lions on her shirt. Photo: Tom Shaw/The FA/Getty Images

"2014 The FA"

What does your darling daughter want to achieve? She could do worse than follow in the magical bootsteps of Fran Kirby, says Jan Raycroft

Fran Kirby is scurrying around the kitchen of the flat she shares near Cobham in Surrey, cleaning up and emptying the bins. You see, there is no escape from the housework, even if you are a football super star and play for Chelsea and England.

A woman’s work is never done, and now she has to talk to what will probably be one of those lady writers who pens pieces about soft furnishings. So it’s nice for both of us that during the big tidy-up I can reveal that as a Blues fan for 50 years she’s not the only one still in gleeful meltdown over Eden Hazard’s super goal which stopped London rivals Spurs from chasing the Premier League title, and instead placed it in the unlikely trophy cabinet of Leicester City.

Us Chelsea followers and players can be mean like that, particularly after a rubbish season. But wait! Why are we talking about these blokes, and the Chelsea No 10 who finally rediscovered his genius touch, when the real performer in that shirt number this year is right here, bleaching the sink?

Yes, Fran Kirby, late of Reading and once the girl who showed the boys how it’s done at Caversham Park Primary School and then Chiltern Edge, Sonning Common, is the one described as ‘mini Messi’ by her England manager, Mark Sampson.

And let’s not forget that last year only a cruel semi-final own goal in stoppage time ended the England women’s hopes of winning the World Cup – they beat Germany (yes, and with a penalty!) in the play-off for third place. As for Chelsea Ladies, they became both champions of the FA Women’s Super League for the first time and won the SSE Women’s FA Cup at Wembley.

So where did it all start for Fran: “Just down the road from home. My brother, James – there’s only a year between us – was always interested in playing football and I wanted to go to training as well. The guys who ran training were really good about it and realised I was half decent. I remember playing in teams where I was the only girl and some of the opposition thought it would be easy – you want to prove them wrong so much.

“Eventually I was playing in an all girls team with other Reading Academy players and there was a match against boys where they actually all laughed at us when we turned up. We beat them 13-0; some went home crying.”

Fran, who will be 23 in June, worked her way through the Reading squads but actually quit football for a while at 16 when her mother died suddenly. She eventually returned to become Reading’s first women player to receive a professional contract.

After the World Cup run Chelsea came in with a bid and she transferred to the Blues.

Recently she moved closer to the Chelsea training ground at Cobham, sharing a flat with Blues winger Gemma Davidson to avoid the dreaded M3 and M4 snarl ups on the journey to what is now her work. But her Reading family and friends will always be a strong pull. She loves to shop in The Oracle in Reading or head to Wokingham Superbowl for 10 pin bowling and LaserQuest with pals such as Reading FC’s left-back Harriet Scott.

The girls are proof that women can now have a career in football. But what would Mini-Messi have done if she hadn’t made it? It seems she’s quite a good cook and if expected to feed me could turn out a tasty chilli or burrito, all to a healthy recipe of course. 

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