There are so many reasons why Fran Kirby should be our outstanding athlete this issue. Fran is one of the people/athletes who when you first meet you instantly warm to, it’s hard not to like her. The humbleness, the smiley face and genuine love of the beautiful game is what makes Fran such a great athlete and person.
Fran started playing at a young age and joined her hometown club, Reading, at the age of seven and made her debut for the first team at the age of sixteen. Amongst her accolades, she was top division 2 scorer in her first year back in football after a break, won a gold medal with Team GB at the Uni Games, achieved 24 goals in sixteen appearances in the 2014 season, ending the season as the league’s top goal scorer and at the 2014 FA Women’s Awards she was named the inaugural WSL2 Players’ Player of the Year. Fran took nine goals in her first two league appearances for Reading this year prior to going to the World Cup, showing what superb form she was in. She scored in her first international match, a dream start to her career.
Fran has only been involved in the England senior squad for a year and yet in that time she has been player of the match, been to a World Cup and scored England’s first goal in the World Cup. Not a bad start for someone who only came back to football a couple of years ago. For me, what I love about Fran was the story surrounding her come back to football was her starting to play Sunday league and doing it because she loved it. To me that’s the story and the role model, Fran loves playing and she exudes that happiness and delight that’s contagious.
Aside from all the stuff fairy tales are made of, she also until the middle of July, played for a second division club (Reading WSL2 division) - the first player to be picked to represent their country from the second division. Add to this that she was dubbed ‘mini Messi’ (reference to Lionel Messi, regarded by many is the best footballer of the generation) during the World Cup as well as signing to Chelsea for a record £50,000 fee in July. This is someone who is doing it all and doing it at speed, but with a smile and relishing it. As she said to me, “I’m taking the challenges and loving the pressure,” and this she does full-on. To watch her train or listen to how she pushes herself even by her own admission, “...working hard is part of being at an international level and I take it very seriously, week in week out giving 110%”.
From Fran’s first appearance I and the team have been fans and I have so enjoyed watching her grow and succeed as she has, it’s been a pleasure to witness. Her passion for life, her love and enjoyment of football and the tangible love and closeness for her mother and all that she did and gave to her and how she holds that memory is moving. So for all this and more to come, this is the reason Fran Kirby is our outstanding athlete of this issue.