BY PAUL LAGAN
Fran Kirby looked very sharp as she returned to the Chelsea starting 11 for the first time in two months last night, and is ready to win trophies for club and country in the coming months with the World Cup looming in France in the summer.
She scored twice in the 4-0 rout of Reading in the Continental Cup quarter final at Kingsmeadow.
Kirby had been nursing a hamstring niggle that was persistent to the point where she said ‘enough was enough’ and she stopped playing in order to fully recover.
“She said: “It was nice to score two goals. It would have been nice to score more, but I can’t be too hard on myself – I’m happy to be back.”
Kirby’s last game was the 2-0 defeat of West Ham on November 4.
“Obviously I took a little break to out of the game to get my hamstring better, and it’s was really needed. I needed to focus on getting back to 100 per cent,” she said.
“I felt good, sharp and ready to go.
“I would not have come back unless I was 100 per cent. Obviously anything can happen. I could wake up tomorrow and be as stiff as anything, but I’m taking it day by day, making sure I’m looking after myself, and get the right recovery.
“Last night was the best I’ve played all season and I want to maintain that.
“It’s always frustrating being injured – you don’t want that. But all along in my career I’ve learnt a lot in dealing with injuries and knowing when it’s the right time to come back and play. It is frustration but I’ve kept myself fit throughout my treatment.
“I had been nursing a little niggle for a while throughout the season, and you know your body needs a break and it was the right time to do it especially after the West Ham game. It was probably my worst performance for Chelsea so I really had to get myself right. This team is so good, that you need to be 100 per cent right, 80 per cent is not good enough.
“The medical team were really good, maintaining me for a long time, making sure I was ready for game day, but after a while you have to be honest, and say ‘look it’s not right for me to carry on playing’. And they were really great. They said ‘We don’t want to rush you. We want you to be 100 per cent going back’. And that is really important to have a team like that behind you, who just said ‘take your time, make sure you are ready to go. We have a quality squad, that should be able to win these games.’
“They were playing absolutely fantastically, so I needed to make sure I was raring to go when I came back.”
The other side to benefit from a rejuvenated Kirby is England who was named in manager Phil Neville’s squad to go on warm weather training to Qatar as the start of their World Cup preparations.
“Yeah, obviously we can’t hide the fact I want to go to the World Cup in the summer,” said Reading-born Kirby.
“So I need to make sure, one – I’m ready for Chelsea, and two – I’m ready for England. And I’m going to make sure that I’m ready to do both. I want to win titles and trophies with this club, and win a trophy in the World Cup.
“Phil Neville has kept in contact all the time, to make sure I’m okay, not rushing myself, and making sure when I do come back, I’m ready to go. We have had a constant conversation, He made sure I’ve had the best here and if I need help from the England staff they are willing to do that.”
Chelsea face WSL 1 leaders Arsenal on Sunday in a game that will make or break the champions attempt to overhaul the north Londoners.
The Gooners inflicted Chelsea’s only league defeat all season – a humbling 5-0 thrashing at Kingsmeadow in October. So is it revenge time?
Kirby said: “We need to approach the game like we do any other game, not think about what happened last time. Obviously, we want to set things right and show what champions are all about. And we want to make sure we do everything in our power to get the win. We need it, not just because of what happened here, but we need to catch them in the league.”
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