Chelsea’s spectacular Community Shield victory over Manchester City was almost overshadowed by the return of Fran Kirby.
The prolific midfielder has been sidelined for the past 10 months with an array of injuries but has fought her way back onto the field.
The 27-year-old England international played a solid 71 minutes before making way for eventual goalscorer Erin Cuthbert.
Kirby was Chelsea’s powerhouse, setting up various chances for Sam Kerr by penetrating Citizens’ right wing.
She didn’t play in her usual central position but she was a constant threat.
Kirby’s best chance to assist a goal on her return came in the second half when she quickly got past Demi Stokes before finding Kerr inside the box.
Kerr’s poor kick on the ball, being just six meters of the goal, robbed Kirby of an assist on her first competitive game in months.
Nevertheless, her latest show on the Community Shield showcased how important she is.
Never a Quitter
Back in November 2019, Kirby was diagnosed with pericarditis after suffering bad chest pains one day after a home game versus Manchester United.
She had fluid that was causing inflammation of the sac that protects her heart.
Kirby said the pain had taken over her life as her symptoms continued to get worse.
“I was a ghost, a zombie, I wasn’t really there,” Kirby said during an interview with former teammate Alex Scott.As a matter of fact, Kirby talking to Instagram Live series Scottie Talks admitted that she almost gave up football.
“I’ve probably nearly called Emma Hayes and (at the time) England’s coach Phil Neville so many times to say ‘I’m done’.”
As the frustration kept on growing in her, she had to keep her mental health on track by not letting the severe illness take over her life.Embed from Getty Images
“I wasn’t allowed to go for a walk, I wasn’t allowed to do anything that would put stress on me.”
With the support of her family and friends, Kirby decided she was going to give it another shot.
Getting Back to Normality
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes knew Kirby’s road to recovery would be difficult but was always optimistic.
“Fran is a massively important part of our squad and she knows that,” Hayes said in an interview with The Guardian.
As the Women’s Super League is about to start, women’s football fans are eager to witness Fran Kirby’s return back into the league.Embed from Getty Images
Before the first FA Women’s Community Shield final since 2008, Hayes described Kirbys’ return as “a new signing” and marked her as “one of the best players in the world.”
The Lionesses midfielder did credit her manager’s words, by giving a spectacular performance against the Citizens.
“I feel good, I feel fair and I want to keep helping the team, to drive myself and drive my standards,” Kirby said.
Chelsea will face Manchester United in the opening game of the season on Sunday 9/6 at 4:30 pm.
Hopefully, Kirby will be able to play a part in the game and enjoy an injury-free return to the top flight.