36. Fran Kirby
When Fran Kirby made her major tournament bow as a 21-year-old two years ago, the then FA WSL 2 striker was still a relative unknown to most in the world of football.
Two years later and the striker has established herself as one of the rising stars of the game, partly in thanks to Chelsea manager Emma Hayes signing her up from Reading off the back of her performances at the 2015 World Cup.
Nicknamed ‘Mini Messi’ by former England head coach Mark Sampson, Kirby endured a torrid 2016 which was ended prematurely by injury, but she showed early on in 2017 that she’d lost none of her talent.
Despite missing several games of the short Spring Series, Kirby walked away as top scorer with six goals and continued her good form when she returned to the England squad. Kirby scored in a warm up friendly against Switzerland and then again in the opening minutes of England’s Euro 2017 encounter with Spain.
Whilst the number 10 role didn’t appear to suit Kirby’s game once England progressed to the latter stages of the competition, Kirby once again hit the ground running for Chelsea when the FA WSL resumed in September. Kirby ended her season in fine fashion with a Continental Cup hat-trick against Liverpool.
Emma Hayes, Chelsea manager says:
“Fran loves scoring goals, there is nobody better in England in my opinion at putting through on goal in a one on one situation.”
Rachel Brown, former England international says:
“Fran’s unbelievable, she’s a very different striker to other options for England. Technically, her feet are so quick and she’s so agile. Her centre of gravity is wonderful and she’s a real joy to watch. She came back from a long injury and didn’t look like she’d missed a minute, she looked like she’d developed even during the time she hadn’t been on the pitch.”
Jen O’Neill, SheKicks editor and women’s football writer:
“After a hugely frustrating and almost year-long injury lay-out, Fran Kirby immediately started where she had left off on her returns for both Chelsea and England, in 2017. Despite being eased cautiously back into action she topped the WSL1 Spring Series scoring chart with six goals and then netted in a pre-Euros friendly in Switzerland on first game back for the Lionesses. Happy to cover ground for the team and to play as a slightly deeper forward, her time spent away from the field saw her working hard to develop her strength and power but her best and most attractive playing qualities appear natural ones. Tricky and balanced on the ball, able to turn and thrive in tight spaces, Kirby is a gifted goalscorer and a genuine crowd-pleaser.”