Watching the World Cup on telly was not in Fran Kirby’s plan for the summer, and she freely admits she’s not expecting to do it very well. The Lioness, who has 65 caps, will miss the World Cup due to a knee injury she picked up playing for Chelsea back in February.
‘It’s never nice to miss a tournament, or to miss any football. It was something that I was extremely gutted about,’ she tells Mail Sport. ‘I’m probably the worst sofa football-watcher you could ever imagine. I’m quite analytical when it comes to football, so I think I watch the game differently to how a fan would watch the game.’
A pivotal player in last summer’s Euro winning squad and a mainstay in Sarina Wiegman’s starting XI, Kirby scored the fourth and final goal in England’s semi-final thumping of Sweden.
Despite missing this year’s tournament Kirby is unable to completely stay away from the action in Australia, and she is regularly reaching out to her teammates during their pre-tournament preparations.
‘I’ve got some close friends who are out there who I’m talking to every day. I’ve been asking them things like ‘How was training today?’ ‘How are you feeling?’ I want to know how they’re all doing,’ she says.
Fran Kirby, who will miss the World Cup, says she finds it difficult to watch games on TV
The Chelsea star (left) won’t be able to play at the World Cup because of a knee injury
Kirby teamed up with former England teammate Toni Duggan (left) to bring a new experience of watching the Lionesses to Shoreditch in The Queen’s Header
Kirby is joined by captain Leah Williamson and European Golden Boot winner Beth Mead on the injury-hit list for this World Cup and England have struggled for goals since beating Brazil in the Finalissima in April.
This does not seem to dampen the Chelsea midfielder’s hopes for England progressing far in the competition, however. ‘The squad is extremely experienced,’ she says.
‘There are players who have played in the home Euros and won a trophy. There are players who have played in the Champions League and there’s even a couple who have won it. The squad they have out there is certainly capable of winning it.’
Kirby, who earned her first senior cap for England in August 2014, went on to play at two World Cups and two Euros. She is clearly speaking from experience then when she qualifies this by saying: ‘But it’s a World Cup. Anything can happen.’
Kirby is teaming up with former England teammate Toni Duggan to bring a new experience of watching the Lionesses to Shoreditch. The Queen’s Header, a pop-up pub, is going to be exclusively showing the women’s World Cup games, with the two Lionesses providing a ‘VIP fireside chat’ during England’s first game against Haiti on Saturday morning.
‘I’m going to watch the first game with a load of Lionesses fans and I’m really excited for that because I think it’s going to be such a nice atmosphere, a nice venue, and some passionate fans down there as well, and hopefully I can get a bit more excited rather than having my football head on.
‘Growing up it was so difficult to watch women’s football. The one game that used to be on was the women’s FA Cup final, and that was once a year and only sometimes televised.’
Like so many things that have changed since last year’s Euros triumph, there is a Lioness involved once again in making sure women’s sport continues to grow and be represented on the largest stages.
The Queen’s Header, a pop-up pub, is exclusively showing the women’s World Cup games
Last year Kirby was on the scoresheet in England’s Euro 2022 semi-final against Sweden
According to Kirby Sarina Wiegman’s side are capable of winning the tournament
Kirby and ex-England team-mate Toni Duggan will watch the Haiti game with Lionesses fans
‘To be part of the launch of (the Queen’s Header) and to be there to watch the first Lionesses game with Toni, someone who I know really well and who I’ve grown up with playing alongside at England, it’s really special.’
And, she adds: ‘Hopefully the Lionesses put on a good show for everyone who’s watching down there, too!’
Just Eat is donating ticket sales for the Queen’s Header to support grassroots women’s football, as well as a further £50,000 investment to its Feed the Game fund which aims to inspire and encourage more women and girls to play football, including the 101 women’s football teams it helped kick start last summer.
England play Haiti at 10.30 am on Saturday 22 July, and will be shown live on ITV.