Chelsea forward Fran Kirby sat down to discuss her return to fitness, a positive pre-season, and receiving personal recognition during the summer break.

The Blues forward celebrated her 30th birthday in June and is looking forward to a fresh start after a tumultuous 2022/23 campaign, which ended with an injury sustained in our Continental Tyres League Cup semi-final against West Ham United in February.

Surgery preceded a rehabilitation process and after plenty of hard work during the close season, Kirby was among the first group of players to report back to Cobham for pre-season with a hunger and desire to be back on the pitch doing what she loves.

Discipline, determination and resilience are required when recovering from injury and Kirby has shown these traits in abundance. She is always humble and cannot hide her delight at how pre-season has been going after a difficult end to the last campaign.

‘I’ve been really happy with how it’s gone. I was in over the summer doing my rehab and just trying to make sure I was doing everything possible to be able to be back for pre-season. When I had the surgery in May, I knew my season had ended and I could really focus on getting myself back.

‘To be honest, it’s been a real relief and a lot of stuff has been taken off my shoulders, especially with the injury I had. It was just in my body; it wasn’t that somebody had tackled me or I’d done something that I shouldn’t. It was something I couldn’t play with anymore.

‘It’s been a relief to have that surgery, to have that taken away, to be able to build and work on myself and other things, not just my rehab.

'I’ve been able to get robust and have a proper pre-season, which I haven’t had for many years now. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s good to have the solid weeks to build into the season.’

Our squad is gradually reconvening at our Surrey training base and after several rehab and individual sessions, Kirby is relishing being back among her teammates.

She has enjoyed seeing new and familiar faces and thrives on challenging herself against those around her.

‘It’s really nice, it’s good for me to test myself against people,' she says. 'When you get injured during a season, you don’t have the time to adjust. You go back into team training and that’s it, you’re in. You’re modified but you don’t through the motions of building yourself up.

'It’s been good for me to start off with a smaller group. Then the more that come back, the more I get familiar with being back on the pitch, reacting off other people’s movements and stimuli, which you don’t get in a rehab session.

‘It’s been nice seeing the faces come back in, and it will be nice to get everyone back in when they are refreshed and have that buzz around the team again.’

Off the pitch, Kirby was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Buckinghamshire New University. It was a memorable occasion where Kirby found herself surrounded by people who share her passion, and she was left feeling both proud and inspired.

She explains: ‘It was really nice! The nursing graduation ceremony were there with me on that day. They do lots of different ones like nursing general practice, mental health nursing, something I am passionate about anyway.

'It was a really nice fit to be involved with people who are there trying to help people and that gave me so much inspiration and pride to be there.

‘You could see how happy they were to have graduated. It was an amazing day and it was one that I will always remember for the rest of my life. You could feel the love in the room and being involved with a day like that is so cool.’

We will hear more from Fran in the build-up to our pre-season fixture against Roma at Kingsmeadow on Sunday 3 September. Ticket information can be found here.