Fran Kirby exclusive: From considering retirement to vying for Ballon d’Or


ran Kirby will walk out of the tunnel at Wembley before England take on Northern Ireland on Saturday — but nearly two years ago she could not even manage a flight of stairs.

Kirby fell ill with pericarditis back in November 2019, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac around the heart, and it led her to the point where she was considering retirement.

At times, the Chelsea forward was sleeping 18 hours day, but she has recovered and is now, arguably, in the form of her life as the Lionesses prepare to play their first-ever competitive game at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, when they host Kenny Shiels’s side in a World Cup qualifier.

“It’s an interesting one, because I always live in the present moment,” Kirby tells Standard Sport.

“So when I had an amazing last year — winning trophies with Chelsea, winning trophies individually — I didn’t actually sit there and think, ‘Look where you were 10 months ago compared to now’. I don’t really ever have those moments. I just focus on what’s to come.

“But when I actually sit there and think there was a point where I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to playing in a Champions League Final or getting selected for an Olympics, they are really special moments.”

It is the second occasion the 28-year-old has been nominated, having been shortlisted in 2018 for the inaugural award, but this time feels different.

“I think it was definitely an award I was ready to be nominated for and ready to be spoken about in those terms,” Kirby says. “I was nominated before and that was the first one, but I didn’t really feel like I had matured enough as a player. Last year was one of the best years that I’ve had in my career.

“I feel this time I definitely deserve to be in that list of nominations. Anything can happen, I am keeping my fingers crossed.”

The Ballon d’Or would add to Kirby’s bulging trophy cabinet and she has already won the FWA and PFA Player of the Year twice. Four WSLs and two FA Cups are also among her collection, but the forward has honours with England in her sights now.

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