By Jaideep Vaidya.
Reading striker Fran Kirby became the first player from the Women’s Super League 2 (WSL2) to be named in an England World Cup squad, when Mark Sampson announced the names of the 23 women going to Canada 2015 on Monday.
Kirby, 21, is also one of the youngest members of Sampson’s squad, which includes seven forwards.
“It’s really exciting for me, being the first player from the WSL2 to get called up and be able to go to the World Cup,” said Kirby, after the squad announcement.
“This time last season, I wasn’t even in the squad. It’s been a whirlwind year for me and I’m really excited, proud and happy to be named in the squad.
After making a goal-scoring debut for the England Lionesses against Sweden last summer, Kirby scored her second international goal in a 2-1 friendly win over China in April. She was also part of the Cyprus Cup-winning squad in March.
Kirby’s recent goal-scoring form for club and country, which has seen her net 11 goals in five matches for Reading this season, impressed England manager Mark Sampson, who said he was “very confident” in her ability.
“Fran got the opportunity to play in some big games. She played against the Sweden team [last year]. She was outstanding, scored a goal, and also put in an admirable performance against the likes of USA and, more recently, China.
“Fran’s proven that when the opportunity comes to raise the bar, she can,” he said.
— Fran Kirby (@FranKirbyy) May 11, 2015
Kirby became Reading’s first ever professional female player last year, but was still unsure of her place in the World Cup squad:
“I don’t think anyone can be confident really. Everyone’s competing so much to get this spot. People are playing really well for their clubs.
“It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to take every chance that you get, train like every training session is a trial and every game is a final.
“I think it’s what Mark sees in you at the time. If he feels you’re playing well and thinks you’re the right person to be in the squad, that’s the way it goes.
“Obviously there were doubts that I don’t get picked and I don’t make it, but I’m very happy that he’s put his faith in me,” she said.
Kirby’s inclusion in the World Cup squad completed a remarkable turnaround in her career, just four years after quitting football altogether following the sudden death of her mother.
However, Sampson is confident that the 21-year-old is ready to take the bull by the horns in Canada.
“On a personal level, she’s ready to go and attack this tournament,” said the manager. “It’s important that she goes there and enjoys her experience. She will certainly be an important player for us.”
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