Fran Kirby believes Chelsea Women are a better team for last season’s disappointments as they prepare to welcome Manchester United to Kingsmeadow in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League on Sunday.
The encounter is part of the FA’s Women’s Football Weekend, an event taking place over the 16-17 November which is set to be another landmark moment in the rapid growth of the women’s game. With the men’s international break causing a pause in the Premier League and Championship, the aim is to encourage people to go and support their local women’s team.
A bumper crowd is expected at Kingsmeadow on Sunday. The last few tickets remain - buy yours now to make sure you don’t miss out on matchday!
The Blues are currently unbeaten in all competitions this season and sit top of the FA WSL table ahead of a busy week which includes the visit of United, a home tie with Tottenham in Group D of the Continental Cup and a trip to Birmingham in the WSL on November 24.Chelsea’s start to the season – which included a huge win over Arsenal in the league last month – is a stark contrast to last season, when three goalless draws in the opening three league games of the season all but ended our hopes of a third WSL title before they had begun.Despite being delighted with the current run, forward Kirby insists the Blues are keeping our feet firmly on the ground and taking each challenge as it comes.‘We don’t feel the pressure. Obviously last year we weren’t happy with how our season went so now we are just trying to keep our feet on the ground and keep working hard, keep putting in the performances and keep winning,’ she said.‘We always talk about wanting to play well but all that matters is getting three points on the board. We want to continue that and continue the run but we know it’s going to be a tough game and know that they have some amazing players that we need to be aware of.‘We’ve learnt a lot from last year. We’ve learnt that we have to be patient in everything we do. We got frustrated a lot last year and we weren’t scoring the goals that we were previously and we learnt a lot in the respect that we keep going and keep pushing.‘Last year when a team scored against us our heads went down but this year we are fighting for every ball still even when we go a goal down. We have a different character this year, we keep pushing and get the goals.‘As long as we keep believing in ourselves and don’t get on top of ourselves and frustrated then I think we can come back from anything.’
Kirby has seen a lot in her time with Chelsea but Sunday will represent a new challenge with a first competitive women’s match between the Blues and Man United.
Founded in May 2018, the Red Devils have quickly found their feet in the top flight with three wins in their opening five matches following promotion to the WSL as Championship champions.
And Kirby is excited to come up against Casey Stoney’s side this weekend. The 26-year-old said: ‘I’m really looking forward to it, they have been doing well this year. I think they have shown what qualities they have in their games that they have come through, but we have had a good start to the season and we want to continue and build on that.
‘Hopefully we put in a good performance for everyone who is coming and it will be a great day. They’ve got some really good results and they brought in some quality players so it’s going to be interesting to see where both teams are at and it’s one challenge we are really looking forward to at Kingsmeadow.’
Kirby racked up her 100th appearance for the club against West Ham last month, scoring 65 goals in that time and will be aiming to add to that total in front of a bumper crowd this weekend.
The impressive stats have also been achieved despite spending much of 2018/19 recovering from injury, while a further set back on our pre-season trip to Israel meant Kirby missed the opening two matches of this campaign.
While managing her body remains crucial – something which led to her sitting out England’s recent internationals – Kirby is raring to go for the week ahead.
‘I’m feeling really good, I’m working really hard in training and I’m feeling really good when I play,’ noted Kirby, who will be targeting a first goal of the season on Sunday.
‘At the moment it takes a little bit longer to recover after games which is one of the reasons why I was not selected for the national team because Phil [Neville] wants people to be training a couple of days after games and doing all the fitness tests they need to be doing to play.
‘For me at the moment I’m not in that position, I’m fit to train and play games but everything else on top of it would be a bit too much at the moment. For me I want my season and career to go up for a while rather than go up and then back down, I want it to keep building and keep going right so hopefully I can get myself back in form.
‘But I am feeling good and fitter than I have been for a long time, I’m building my confidence up in training around the girls and I’m ready to go for Sunday.
‘Of course I love to score goals and I love to be involved in goals but for me the most important thing is getting the three points and if I need to change my role up a bit then I’m going to do that for the team.’
Sunday’s match is expected to be a sell-out and the last few tickets remain. Make sure you do not miss out on witnessing history by securing your ticket now.
The Blues’ next game at Kingsmeadow is on Wednesday 20 November when we host Tottenham Hotspur for our second to last group stage match of the Continental League Cup, which kicks off at 7pm.