Kirby: We're still growing

Fresh from signing a new three-year contract with Chelsea Women, and at the end of a season in which she picked up a host of honours, both collectively and individually, Fran Kirby spoke to the club’s official website.

The striker reflected on a wonderful 2017/18, as well as discussing the importance of possessing a strong team spirit and her hopes for next season.

 

The last 12 months have been incredible for you: top scorer in the Spring Series as we lifted the trophy, followed by a glut of goals in 2017/18 to secure a whole host of honours both collectively and individually...

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for me. Coming back in the Spring Series and knowing I was 100 per cent was really special and being able to go through this whole season being pretty much injury-free has been massive for my development. It’s nice to be able to give something back to Chelsea, who were so great trying to get me back on the pitch as soon as possible.

 

Does the last year make up for the fact you lost the previous 12 months of your career to injury?

Definitely. I’ve always been a player that wants to do well and give 100 per cent, whether that’s for my club or my country, and when you’re injured you don’t take anything for granted any more – being able to play football, being able to go out on the training pitch every day. I’d be in the gym and watching the girls go out to training and I knew I wasn’t even near to being there myself.

Being able to play football is something I’ll never take for granted again. I’ve given absolutely everything, whether it’s on the pitch, in training, or in the gym. I’ll often be the last one out on the training pitch, working on my finishing, or the last one out of the gym because I’m making sure I’m doing 100 per cent every time.

 

You’ve scored 31 goals in 31 starts for Chelsea since making your comeback from injury. That’s a phenomenal record for anyone, let alone someone who was out for a year…

That’s my job – to put the ball in the back of the net. I’ve been lucky this year in that it’s gone in more times than others and I’ve scored some big goals which I’ll never forget.

It’s just nice being in an environment where you’re going to get those chances every week.

I put the ball in the back of the net, but it starts with everyone around me creating those opportunities – I couldn’t do it all by myself and I definitely couldn’t do the defensive duties those players do which helps us win the games.

Luckily for me it’s gone well since I’ve come back. When I’m able to score goals, that’s when I’m at my happiest. And when I’m enjoying my football, I have been scoring.

Fran Kirby pictured with Chelsea Women general manager Paul Green after winning the club's Player of the Year award.

You’ve won several individual honours, but all along you’ve said they mean nothing without the team trophies...

Absolutely. That’s one thing a lot of people know about me, whether they’ve played with me or against me – I want to win for the team. At the beginning of the season I’d have never dreamed of achieving what I have done personally, that was never in the back of my mind, all I was thinking about was winning trophies with my team.

My attitude doesn’t change. If you ask all the girls, they’ll tell you I’ll always give 100 per cent to win for my team. I think people can see that.

 

There’s very much an ‘all for one and one for all’ mentality here, isn’t there?

Definitely, and you need that. You can’t have a team of people where some people care more than others, or they want the personal accolades. There’s none of that here, everything is about winning.

You can see in our celebrations how much everyone enjoys winning with this team and how important it is. We’ve got a team full of winners who know what it’s like to win things every year. It’s definitely a collective thing – let’s win together.

At the end of the day, I can’t win any of these personal awards unless my team-mates are backing me 100 per cent. I can’t stop the ball going in the back of the net from my position; I can try and put it in the back of their net, but I can’t stop it going in ours. I always respect my team-mates and make sure I work 100 per cent for them.

 

I’m sure if you asked your team-mates they’d all take such pride in you winning those awards. As you say, they played their part in it as well.

They have done and I think everyone is happy for each other. For me, it was a massive achievement to see so many of us nominated for PFA Player of the Year and selected in the Team of the Year.

It just shows how good we’ve been as a team this season and I’ve just been the lucky one to get the plaudits because I put the ball in the back of the net.

We’re going to be asking fans to pick their best Chelsea Women’s goal of the 2017/18 season. Which strike would get your vote?

I don’t think it will be one of mine. I think I’ll go with Ji against Sunderland at the start of the season, when she Cruyff-turned and then whipped it in off the bar.

 

It’s been a wonderful season for you and the girls, but the club as a whole is celebrating a unique Treble, too, having won the FA Cup at men’s, women’s and youth level. How does that make you feel?

It’s a massive achievement for this football club. For the men’s team, winning the FA Cup in the last game of the season gives everyone a bit of a lift and for us to be able to hold all three of the FA Cup trophies is really special. It’s not been done before, so it’s another record this club has set, but now we’ve got pressure to go and do it again, which hopefully we can.

 

You thrive on that pressure, don’t you?

I think any footballer would. You always want to achieve more than you have before. We have a break now and then we go back to it and hopefully we can be as successful again.

 

We’ll be doing so without some big characters after Katie Chapman, Eniola Aluko and Claire Rafferty, among others, have retired or moved on...

It’s a massive loss for us as a team and a club. The girls have handled themselves really professionally through the whole situation, and I’m sure they each had difficult and emotional decisions to make.

They’ve been absolutely incredible characters around the training ground and on the pitch when they’ve played. It was fate for Eni to get our 100th goal of the season and I think it’s great they could all be part of a winning side for their final year with us.

Whatever they go on to do, we wish them the best of luck – except when they play against Chelsea! We’ll all be checking in with each other, meeting up, because that’s what we’re like here – we all want the best for each other. Wherever they go, we know their hearts are blue. That’s something that’s instilled in you when you come to a club like this. You really become part of the family and you never lose that.

 

How do we improve on what we’ve done this season?

There were two trophies we didn’t win... We’ve still got a lot of building to do in Europe – we learned the lesson we’re not quite there yet against the very top sides, but we still take so much confidence from what we achieved.

We’ve shown we’re one of the best sides in Europe, but we’re still growing. We want to go unbeaten again and win every trophy. It’s always difficult to win back-to-back leagues, so we need to make sure we remain fully focused, we don’t get too carried away with how this season went and we just carry on where we’ve left off.