Fran Kirby welcomes newcomers into England ranks

Friday 18 Sep 2015
Fran Kirby has scored three goals in 13 England appearances

Fran Kirby believes introducing new players into the England Women’s fold will put pressure on more established squad members.

Ahead of the opening Euro 2017 qualifier in Estonia, Mark Sampson has handed Isobel Christiansen her maiden senior call-up, six years after the midfielder helped the Young Lionesses win the Under-19 Euros in Belarus.

Meanwhile, Chelsea defender Gilly Flaherty, Arsenal forward Danielle Carter and Bristol Academy goalkeeper Mary Earps are all involved with the senior squad for just the second time.

Estonia v England

UEFA Women's Euro 2017
Group 7
5pm BST, Monday 21 September
A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn

The quartet have been thrust into a Lionesses camp buoyed by their third-place finish at the World Cup – and Kirby says the shake-up will help keep everyone on their toes.

“When you see new players coming in it automatically makes you want to up your game,” said Kirby, who only made her debut in August 2014.

“I’m still in the same situation as them because I’m still fighting for my place in the team.

“But it’s good that there are more girls coming through the system and I’m sure there will be a few more girls coming through between now and the Euros, so it’s about us making sure we up our game and keep our standards up.

“Training sessions have been tough which is always what you want. The vibe is really good and the new faces have been showing why they have deserved their call-ups.

“Everyone has fitted in well.”

Kirby scored the crucial opening goal against Mexico in the summer, when England were, in all probability, 19 minutes away from being knocked out of the World Cup.

The 22-year-old trickster picked up the ball 20 yards out, jinked into the area and prodded the ball home to send Sampson’s charges on their way to their first victory at Canada 2015.

Fran Kirby was named Player of the Match after her performance against Mexico at the 2015 World Cup

Kirby was named Player of the Match after her performance against Mexico

She also featured in the wins against Colombia and Norway, as the Lionesses went on to win bronze.

The squad are back together for the first time since, in preparation for Monday’s qualifier in Tallinn, against the lowest-ranked team in Group 7.

Kirby said: “We’re going to be 100 per cent focused on winning the game and hopefully winning it comfortably.

“But we can’t be complacent. Estonia will no doubt know what we can bring and what our strengths are because of how we did at the World Cup.

“So we have to make sure we’re on our game and perform to the best of our ability.”

She continued: “We’ll definitely be able to cope with the pressure that comes with being one of the bigger teams.

“The standard of training this week has been really good and that just shows where we are trying to get to.

“Now we’ve got a lot more belief in ourselves. Coming off such a good World Cup campaign we just want to get better and better.”

England Women pose with their bronze medals

England pose with their bronze medals in Edmonton, Canada

Having defeated reigning European champions Germany in the third-place play-off and subsequently climbed to an all-time high of fifth in the FIFA rankings, Kirby reckons England are capable of turning their bronze medals into gold ones in two years’ time.

She added: “It’s really exciting to be going straight into another competition. It’s all about winning and that’s something that we’ll be aiming for.

“Any competition you go in to, you have to be aiming to win it. That’s the mentality that we’ve all got.

“We have belief in ourselves that we can do it.

“We are going into the Euros probably as one of the favourites to win it. We need to kick on, make sure we deal with that pressure and relish the challenge."

By Glenn Lavery at St. George's Park