Fran Kirby still has a lot to give to the sport of soccer, whether it’s with Chelsea or not.

In a recent interview with BBC Sport, Kirby opened up about body image issues that she’s struggled with – particularly in the face of comments on social media. But she also spoke about her contract with Chelsea, which has six months remaining.

Currently, she says, the two aren’t in talks about a new contract. Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is set to depart the club upon the conclusion of the season to manage the U.S. women’s national team.

“At the moment there has been no conversations between myself and the club. I want to continue playing football and continue playing football at a high level,” she said. “I still feel I have a lot to give wherever I am, whether that’s at Chelsea or that has to be somewhere else. But I love the club. I’ve been here a long time and have some great friendships with players and staff.

“I still want to be competing and playing consistently so obviously that’s a decision that has to be made.”

Kirby has struggled with injuries in her career, but thus far has been available for Chelsea in every match during the current WSL campaign. Admittedly, though, the injuries have frustrated her in the past.

“You do question how many times you can go through something. It’s never an easy thing. I also have frustrations with my body and its limitations,” she added. “Playing football is something I still enjoy doing. I still have that really competitive nature inside me. I will keep playing until that fizzles out.

“I remember coming on against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge and hearing the crowd. Hearing that was knowing what I had done was being appreciated.”

The 30-year-old has played for Chelsea since 2015, making 101 appearances for the Blues and scoring 61 goals. That includes an outstanding 2020-21 campaign in which she scored 16 goals in 18 appearances and helped the club to the FA Cup. That season, Chelsea became the first English women’s club to secure the domestic quadruple (FA Women’s Community Shield, FA Women’s League Cup, FA Women’s Cup, FA Women’s Super League).

They also finished as Champions League runners-up that season. She’s currently the team’s all-time leading scorer.

A knee injury kept Kirby out of England’s World Cup campaign last summer, and limited her time with Chelsea last season to just 16 games (eight in the WSL).

“It’s not easy but my most recent [knee injury] was probably the easiest one to come back from because as soon as I had surgery, I didn’t have any pain. That was a relief in itself,” she said. “Of course, missing a World Cup is not a nice feeling at all. I was super proud of watching the girls but there was always that feeling inside, wishing you were there.

“It was still hard. I won’t sit here and say it was the best time of my life going through rehab while everyone was at the World Cup – because it wasn’t. But I tried to stay in a good place mentally. I wanted to be ready for the start of the season and to be able to do that made it all worth it.”

Just Women’s Sports is here with your daily World Cup Digest, breaking down all of the biggest storylines from each day of action in Australia and New Zealand.

Today’s top World Cup news: England’s injury troubles mount

An early goal from Lauren James proved the winner for England in Friday’s 1-0 defeat of Denmark. Yet while the win advances the Lionesses to the knockout stage, they may have to move forward without star midfielder Keira Walsh.

Walsh exited the match on a stretcher after sustaining what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the 35th minute. She twisted awkwardly while trying to intercept a pass and could be seen telling team medical staff: “I’ve done my knee.”

The Barcelona midfielder has been key to England’s success over the past year, including in the team’s run to the 2022 Euros title.

“Everything came through Keira,” former England striker Ellen White told the BBC. “There wasn’t a plan B. I dreaded to think of the idea of us ever losing her because she was one of our best players. Beth Mead was scoring all the goals but all of our play came through Keira. She was the key cog, everything moved through her. I just don’t know who England are going to have now in that 6 [defensive midfield position], or even potential double 6, role.”

The Lionesses already had been decimated with injuries in the lead-up to the tournament. Beth Mead and Leah Williamson are out with ACL tears, while Fran Kirby is also missing the World Cup with an injury. Earlier this month, Walsh had told the PA news agency that an injury was “a massive worry” every time she stepped onto the field.

“Look at the resources the men have as well, I don’t think that’s available to us and we are being asked to play close to what they play in a season now without the kind of resources behind it,” she said. “The medical teams, they work so hard but it’s impossible to keep everybody fresh all the time and we’re playing so many games and I think – with the introduction of the Nations League as well – it’s going to be difficult and you see how many ACL injuries there have been and how many players are getting injured.

“I would be lying if I say it’s not a worry for me every time I go on the pitch that I’m going to get injured next.”

Following the win, England manager Sarina Wiegman wouldn’t give any information on the injury.

“Of course I’m concerned because she couldn’t walk off the pitch but we don’t know yet so we can’t make any assumptions,” she said. “Let’s wait until we have a diagnosis then I can tell you.”

Today’s top highlight: Argentina scores twice in five minutes to save draw

After South Africa took a two-goal lead in the 66th minute, all signs pointed to South Africa taking home its first World Cup win. But a Sophia Braun strike in the 74th minute provided a spark for Argentina, and Romina Nuñéz struck in the 79th minute to tie the score at 2-2.

While the two sides played hard in the final minutes, neither team could find the back of the net again. Both Argentina and South Africa are still looking for their first-ever wins. Argentina is just the second team to have multiple matches in which they’ve come back from a two-plus goal deficit and not lost, joining Nigeria.

Today’s results:

  • Argentina 2, South Africa 2
  • England 1, Denmark 0
  • China 1, Haiti 0

More World Cup news to know:

  • South Africa coach Desiree Ellis was not happy with her team for letting a two-goal lead slip away against Argentina. “It is fantastic we got our first point but three would have been better, it’s like you hand me a chocolate and then take it away, and I love chocolate,” she said.
  • Zhang Rui was sent off with a red card in China’s 1-0 win against Haiti. The game stayed tied until the 74th minute, when Wang Shuang buried the penalty kick to deliver the game-winning goal. China now is tied with Denmark for the runner-up spot in Group D, with Denmark holding the tiebreaker following a 1-0 win earlier in the group stage.

The prolific Sam Kerr-Fran Kirby connection was on display during Chelsea’s 5-0 shutout of Birmingham City on Sunday.

Kerr and Kirby were responsible for all five of the Blues’ goals, with Kerr banking a first-half hat-trick, spurring the Australian to unleash her iconic back-flip goal celebration.

Kirby opened up scoring for Chelsea, chipping the Birmingham keeper to put her side up 1-0 in the 4th minute. She would score again in the game’s 75th minute, getting on the end of a Kerr cross for her 100th goal with the Blues.

On top of the assist, the Australian striker banked three goals in 26 minutes, bringing her Women’s Super League total to nine goals and three assists in eight appearances this season.

Next up: Chelsea will get another shot at Arsenal after falling to the Gunners in the Women’s Super League season-opener when the two teams face off in the FA Women’s Cup final on Dec. 5.

Chelsea put on a dominant showing Sunday, cruising past Manchester City 4-0 for three points in the Women’s Super League standings.

The Blues put the pressure on Manchester City early, stifling their backline. Sam Kerr triggered Chelsea’s first goal, committing to a high press before forcing a turnover from Manchester City’s goalkeeper. Jessie Fleming then picked off the failed pass, slotting the ball home to put Chelsea up 1-0 in the game’s opening minutes.

Kerr then doubled Chelsea’s lead before the half, finishing off a break from the Blues to make it 2-0.

Fans on social media delighted in Kristie Mewis’ presence in the stands, as the broadcast cut to the USWNT midfielder cheering on girlfriend Kerr and the Blues.

After the break, the goals kept coming, with Fran Kirby striking a curler past the City keeper to put the scoreline at 3-0.

Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson capped off her team’s commanding offensive performance, heading down an Erin Cuthbert corner kick to earn the Blues a 4-0 victory.

Sunday marks Manchester City’s fourth loss of the FAWSL season as the club continues to struggle to find its footing. Chelsea, on the other hand, has gone unbeaten since falling to Arsenal in the season-opener, sitting just one point below the Gunners in the league standings.

Fran Kirby can add WSL Player of the Season to her mounting list of accomplishments.

Chelsea swept post-season honors with Emma Hayes also winning Manager of the Season. The Blues’ ended the 2020-2021 season as back-to-back WSL champions, beating out Manchester City by two points in the title race.

Kirby recorded 16 goals and 11 assists over 18 appearances, helping advance Chelsea to the top of the table. Her partnership with Sam Kerr has been something to behold, with the pair amassing 37 goals and 18 assists in their first full season together.

2021 was Kirby’s first time back on the pitch after being out for nearly a year with pericarditis. The virus kept Kirby bed-ridden for the majority of the 2019-2020 season. Now back and healthy, Kirby looks to be in top form.

With the club season behind her, Kirby will now prepare for the summer Olympics, where she is expected to represent Great Britain on the team’s 18-person roster.

Chelsea forward Fran Kirby has been named the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year for the second time in her career, making her the first person to win the award twice.

Kirby won the inaugural award back in 2018.

Since then, the forward has had quite the journey. In November 2019, Kirby was diagnosed with pericarditis, a condition that causes swelling around the heart and threatened her soccer career. After six months of recovery, she returned to action at the start of the 2020-21 season.

“For me at the beginning of the year, I had no expectations of how my year was going to go,” Kirby said in an interview with Sky Sports News. “I was so motivated to come back and to be able to come back in a good way for my teammates. I didn’t want to come back in and be someone that the team has to carry.

“It was difficult to have to start from scratch. I had no fitness level, I hadn’t kicked a football in six months, so I think for me that was the hardest part.”

As the season got underway, Kirby was the one carrying her team offensively. She scored 16 goals and contributed 11 assists en route to Chelsea’s second consecutive Women’s Super League title. She also scored six goals to lead Chelsea to their first-ever UEFA Women’s Champions League Final, including this goal against Bayern Munich in the semifinals.

Kirby and teammate Sam Kerr have been unstoppable all season, linking up for 52 goals scored, including the following against Reading.

Kirby was chosen unanimously for the award by a panel of 30 women’s football experts.

“To have overcome a serious health condition and return in such sparkling form is admirable and inspiring,” Jen O’Neill, chair of the FWA’s women’s sub-committee, said in a statement. “Several players, including many of her Chelsea teammates, have been outstanding in a superb WSL season but there are fewer more joyful sights in football than a smiling, fit and firing Kirby.”

Chelsea 2, Manchester United 1

GOALS: Chelsea: Pernille Harder 29’, Fran Kirby 65’; Man Utd: Lauren James 61’

All eyes were on the FA Women’s Super League this week as Chelsea and Manchester United faced off with first place in the table at stake. Chelsea, who sat in second place with a 7-0-2 record and 23 points prior to Sunday’s contest, defeated the Reds, 2-1, to move in front thanks to goals from Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby. With the win, Chelsea is now the only undefeated team in the league, having knocked Manchester United from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Here’s what we learned from this weekend’s thrilling tilt between the league’s two best teams.


1. Chelsea provides a level of competition that Manchester United is not yet accustomed to.

United’s most recent contest was a 6-1 blowout against Bristol City, the last-place team in the table. Prior to that match, many of Manchester United’s victories had been won by a margin of two goals or less. A win is a win, and each of these victories was certainly an achievement when considering the competition. Among their opponents were top-tier squads such as Everton, Reading, and Arsenal, all members of the top six in league standings, and during these tilts, Manchester United appeared comfortable and in control of the flow of each game.

The opposite was true from the opening whistle on Sunday, as Chelsea dominated the first 45 minutes of play, something no other team has done to United. At halftime, a goal by Pernille Harder saw Chelsea up with a 1-0 advantage, after the Blues booked 11 first-half shots, 4 of which were on target, whereas Manchester United had taken only 2 shots, none of which were on target.

If one thing was inherently clear following Sunday’s match, it’s this — Chelsea provides a level of competition that Manchester United is not yet accustomed to experiencing. Finding themselves on the defensive against elite talents such as Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, and Pernille Harder, United appeared lackluster when threatened by a fellow top squad. Despite equalizing midway through the second half, United was unable to complete a comeback.

In just their second FAWSL season, United had surprised many by advancing to the top of the table. And while they’ve proven they belong with the best of the best, this loss will certainly sting, as it gave United a chance to prove themselves against a traditional power in Chelsea.


2. The absence of Lauren James and Tobin Heath was detrimental.

In an interesting decision from Manchester United manager Casey Stoney, both Tobin Heath and Lauren James were left out of the starting line-up and were instead available as substitutes. Heath has scored four goals and notched two assists for the Reds this season, and though Lauren James had yet to score ahead of today’s match, she booked 6 goals in 12 games for her squad during the 2019/2020 season.

Upon the announcement of the starting line-up, many United faithful were speculating that Stoney would utilize the offensive talents as impact substitutes during the second half.

With United down 1-0 at the beginning of the second half, Lauren James came off the bench and made an instant impact, scoring the equalizer in the 61st minute to deadlock the score at 1-1. Surprisingly, Heath never entered the match as a substitute, leaving observers puzzled as to if there were ulterior reasons for her exclusion from Sunday’s game.

It begs the question, would the inclusion of James and Heath (if she was truly available) in the starting line-up have resulted in a different outcome for Manchester United? After all, many of United’s scoring chances are a direct result of the efforts of these two players — and the first half alone indicates that their absence is detrimental to the Reds’ offense. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, as United has to be left wondering if they put their best foot forward in the biggest match of the year.


3. It’s Fran Kirby’s world, and we’re just living in it.

Following an outstanding four-goal performance in Chelsea’s last match against Reading FC, Fran Kirby was yet again the hero. After receiving a long ball from goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, Kirby beat three United defenders in a footrace and buried a shot past Mary Earps and into the far left corner of the net. Kirby’s goal would give the Blues the edge they needed to seal the 2-1 victory and surge into first place in the table.

In just two games, Kirby has notched five goals, bringing her season total to eight. She now ranks among the league’s top scorers, second to only Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema.

In an interview ahead of Sunday’s tilt, Kirby assured reporters that the Blues would be ready for Manchester United: “It’s going to be really tough. They are coming to our home. We’ve got to be ready and I’m sure after another good week of training we will be ready to go… Everyone’s excited for the game, we want to keep on playing and keep on winning.”

Keep on winning, indeed — and with Kirby playing at this level, Chelsea is nearly unstoppable given the surplus of superstar talent they have in support. Their undefeated streak has survived another day, and looks to be relatively safe with a game against last-place Bristol City scheduled for this weekend. A more interesting test should come this Wednesday in their FAWSL Cup quarter-final match against Manchester City, who recently signed USWNT player Abby Dahlkemper as they gear up for their own run at a FAWSL title.


Chelsea 5, Reading FC 0


Fran Kirby 16’, 23’, 45+2’, 53’

Ji So-Yun 86’

If there’s one thing we learned from Sunday morning’s tilt between Chelsea and Reading FC, it’s that Fran Kirby is determined to make 2021 her year. The forward notched a perfect hat trick in the first half, scoring first with her left foot, then with her right foot, and finally with her head.

Kirby went on to add a fourth goal in the early minutes of the second half, paving the way to a dominant win that helped Chelsea advance to second place in the table. Ji So-Yun logged a goal of her own to bring the score to 5-0 in favor of the Blues.

Here’s how the action unfolded:

Setting the tone only sixteen minutes into the first half, Sam Kerr challenged a Reading defender in the air and redirected a header to Kirby. Kirby, who was already making a darting run towards the box, took the assist in stride and cut the ball to her right foot, avoiding an attempted charge from Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney. With an open net now before, Kirby tapped in the first FAWSL goal of 2021 to give Chelsea a 1-0 advantage.

Seven minutes later, Fran Kirby struck again — this time getting a foot in front of a clearance attempt by Reading defender Emma Mitchell. In a showcase of her speed and skill on the ball, Kirby beat Mitchell with several quick touches, cutting the ball toward the penalty spot and burying a shot into the lower 90 to record the brace and extend Chelsea’s lead to 2-0.

Whispers of a Fran Kirby hat trick began to circulate as soon as her second goal brushed the back of the net, and unsurprisingly, she would deliver. Seconds before the whistle blew to end the first half, Kerr lofted a cross into the Reading box, meeting the head of Kirby. The forward flicked the cross past Moloney and into the net, notching a first-half hat trick against her former squad and providing Chelsea a substantial 3-0 cushion with only 45 minutes gone.

As for Reading, the squad looked less than prepared to handle Chelsea’s advances, as had been a worry heading into the match. Kirby’s first two goals caught their defenders too far up the field and unable to recover, leaving Moloney as their sole line of defense against the lethal Chelsea offense. Reading concluded the first half with only two shots on goal, none of which were on target, a feat that simply cannot be afforded should the Royals want to remain competitive at sixth place in the table. It goes without saying that Reading needed to piece together a near-perfect showing in the second half to cut into Chelsea’s three-goal lead.

Unfortunately for the Royals, however, Kirby was not yet finished with her statement performance as the second half began. In the 53rd minute, Chelsea was awarded a corner kick. On the receiving end of the ball? Fran Kirby, of course. As the former Royal headed home her fourth goal of the match, Reading’s hopes of a comeback campaign were extinguished as Chelsea improved their lead to 4-0.

Also etching her name on the scoresheet for Chelsea was Ji So-Yun, who settled an attempted clearance by the Reading defense, cut the ball to her left foot and buried Chelsea’s fifth goal of the match in the 86th minute. As the clock wound down, Reading was unable to mount a scoring chance and would ultimately be shut out by the Blues, 5-0.

With the win, Chelsea continues their undefeated streak into the new year, now boasting a 7-0-2 record and 23 points. Next weekend’s showdown against Manchester United will now pit the top two teams in FAWSL against each other, with a win for Chelsea bringing them level with United at the top of the table.