Euro 2022: England's Fran Kirby speaks about 'relief' at overcoming fatigue problem

Fran Kirby training with England
Fran Kirby proved her fitness during England’s training camp at St George’s Park

Fran Kirby says she was relieved to make the Euro 2022 squad for hosts England after suffering with fatigue.

Kirby’s appearance in last week’s friendly against Belgium was her first for Chelsea or England since February.

Kirby was never given a clear diagnosis for her condition but was named in England’s 28-player preliminary squad before being picked in the final 23.

“I wouldn’t say that there was fear, but there was definitely relief to get selected,” said the 28-year-old.

“I never really had in the back of my mind, ‘oh my god, I’m not going to get selected for the Euros now’, because I just wasn’t focusing my energy feeling like that.

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“Going into Chelsea to training, I had conversations with Emma [Hayes, her manager] and just said, ‘look, what will be will be, if I’m ready I’m ready’.

“If I show [up], and I don’t get picked, then at least I know that I’ve done everything.”

Kirby, who won her 55th England cap in the 3-0 win over Belgium, even got an oxygen tent put in her home in a bid to recover in time and last month said she would need to train in a “safe way” to prove her fitness.

She described the support given by Chelsea and England as “incredible” as she consulted several specialists and, although they were ultimately unable to find the cause of the problem, Kirby did enough to be selected by England coach Sarina Wiegman.

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“There was no specific answers on the tests where they could go ‘this is the illness’,” Kirby added.

“It was extreme fatigue and extreme exhaustion. There was talk about underperformance fatigue syndrome, so there were loads of things that were getting chucked out.

“It was a lot of working with different phycologists to learn different ideas, working with different specialists in terms of nutrition and the recovery. I got an oxygen tent put in my house, so [I was] just learning different things that can help. It’s opened my eyes in terms of not just the recovery you may see, it’s the other aspects that go alongside it.

“I was seeing a different specialist every day to pinpoint what exactly was going on. I’ve been to Barcelona to meet some of the best doctors in sport, which is something I’ll never not be thankful for. It’ll be really nice to be able to pay back that support when I get on the pitch and show people what I can do and why I’ve been selected.”

Going public helped Kirby get back into action

Besides consulting a range of specialists, Kirby also received advice from a host of sports psychologists and fellow athletes, something she feels she “wouldn’t have got” if the reason for her absence public was not made public.

“I had some amazing people reach out and speak to me, not just women’s football fans, but [people from] other sports, other competitors who have gone through very similar things to me,” she said.

“It’s definitely opened my eyes in terms of, if you do openly speak out about situations you’re going through, there are others that are going through the same feelings, who can help you with those situations.

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“I had a marathon runner reach out, another footballer, a rower – it was loads of different people saying ‘well, I felt this actually helped me, this helped me, and this helped me’. It gave me loads of ideas that I could use.

“That was a really big part in my journey to getting back. That helped me so much to understand that this isn’t just a simple type of fatigue, it’s fatigue that loads of competitors get throughout their career.”

England face the Netherlands on Friday in Leeds and have a training camp in Basel, during which they will play Switzerland on 30 June in Zurich.

The Lionesses then start their Euro 2022 campaign against Austria at a sold-out Old Trafford on 6 July.

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