Euro 2022 ones to watch: England’s comeback kid Chloe Kelly

The Manchester City striker’s post-injury form is peaking at just the right time for her first senior Euros, writes Um-E-Aymen Babar.

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Name: Chloe Kelly Club: Manchester City Age: 24 years old

Senior caps: 10 Goals: 1

From playing football on her local estate with her five brothers, to scoring in England’s first Euro 2022 warm-up match against Belgium, striker Chloe Kelly’s journey to the top has been magnificent.

The West Londoner is a QPR fan but she began her career at the Arsenal academy. She made her debut for the Gunners at just 17 against Watford in the Continental Cup in 2015, and turned pro a year later. It wasn’t long before Kelly caught the eye of other clubs looking for an injection of her pace and goalscoring vision.

Before signing for Manchester City two years ago, she had successful loan spells with Everton and also began to make inroads at international level after being handed her senior debut in a 3-0 friendly win over Austria in 2018. Kelly revelled in debut season glory for the Sky Blues, scoring 16 goals in 34 appearances, and enjoyed her first taste of silverware by winning the delayed 2019/20 Women’s FA Cup. Now she’ll be hoping to make her mark against European heavyweights during this home tournament and add to her one goal so far for England.

The 24-year-old’s certainly not afraid of the hard work that will take. Although this may be Kelly’s first senior Euros, the former Lionesses’ Under-15s kid understands tournament pressure from featuring at the home 2014 U17s Euros and helping achieve an impressive third-placed finish at the 2018 Fifa U20s World Cup. She played alongside City stars Ellie Roebuck and Lauren Hemp — who scored during the recent England v Netherlands match — at that tournament. This month, they’ll aim to combine again to replicate their youth success on the big stage.

Kelly’s goalscoring return against Belgium last month, when she came off the bench to net the second-half opener, was a timely reminder of what she has to offer and hints at the key role she could play in England’s attack. Not bad for a player who had been out for over a year after suffering a horror ACL injury in a WSL match against Birmingham last May.

Kelly showed her mental resilience throughout her recovery and recently revealed that targeting a Euros comeback gave her the motivation she needed to return in April. During her absence, England began to work under the new leadership of Sarina Wiegman and the forward was desperate to show the manager what she could do when she was brought back into the provisional 28-player squad just a month after her club return.

She said: “From when I got injured, I said I want to be at the Euros and I worked each day to do that. I’m just working hard here [at St George’s Park] each day, and showing what I’m capable of.

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“It’s the first time working with Sarina, I know everyone else has worked with her before, but I just need to impress this camp, show what I’m capable of, and let my football do the talking. I think I always believed to be honest, because I knew how much effort I was putting into it day in, day out.”

Kelly is a player whose skills and successes seem only to be on the rise. The stats back her up: nine goals in 12 games during the 2019/20 season for the Toffees, then 10 goals and 11 assists in the WSL alone for Man City the following campaign. She was also voted City’s Player of the Season, and included in the PFA’s Teams of the Year to boot. Let’s hope she can keep this trajectory going with a stellar performance at the Euros this summer.

Career high: While Kelly’s incredible debut season for City has been her most prolific campaign to date and will live long in the memory, being named in the Euros squad is a dream come true for the City ace.

Best finish: In an impressive showreel of some stunning goals and assists, an unforgettable moment was her first Lionesses goal. Reflecting on her experience for City’s official website, she said: “It couldn’t have gone better. It was brilliant to be back out there with the girls. I’m just enjoying my football and to get a goal was an amazing experience.”

Did you know? If Kelly had to choose a favourite sport other than football it would be tennis or, surprisingly, the darts. In a video on England’s YouTube, she admitted: “I’d love to go to the darts. I love the atmosphere that comes with it, like everyone getting dressed up.”

Follow Um-E-Aymen on Twitter @ItsUmeAymen

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