Fran Kirby has praised the trust that Sarina Wiegman has shown in her to enable her to return to her best at Euro 2022 following a prolonged period on the sidelines with illness.

Kirby’s place in England’s 23-player squad for this summer’s tournament had been in doubt after missing the final three months of the domestic season through fatigue, but the Chelsea forward recovered to not only make the squad but emerge as a key figure in England’s opening three group stage victories.

Kirby has started the opening three games and rounded off the Lionesses’ group stage campaign by playing the full 90 minutes against Northern Ireland – the first time she has completed a match in its entirety since 23 January. The 29-year-old opened the scoring with a sumptuous, bending finish from outside the area – her first goal since 21 November – as England ran out 5-0 winners in front of over 30,000 supporters at St Mary’s.

It was a scenario that Kirby admitted was far from her mind when she was initially sidelined back in March.

“Back then I wasn’t really even thinking about being part of the Euros or anything like that,” she said. “Overall, I’m really happy with how my body is adapting and how it’s recovering after games. 

“I’m feeling really good. I got my first 90 minutes, which I’m really, really happy about. And I’m in a really good place at the moment in terms of my body and how I’m recovering and feeling going into training and games. Hopefully, I stay in a good place and I can keep building my fitness.”

Key to Kirby’s return has been her recovery and workload management, which she explained Wiegman has been incredibly accommodating of.

“Recovery is one of my most important things,” Kirby added. “Managing myself and just how I’m feeling; if I’m feeling a little bit tired from training for the games (then) not doing everything in training to make sure that I’m fresh and fit to go for as long as I can in these games.

“Sarina has always been great with me in terms of making sure that I’m managed and making sure that I’m ready to play. She’s always put that trust in me that she knows that I will do everything if I feel good, but if I need to take a little bit of a step back then that’s absolutely fine as well.

“If you feel your legs are a bit heavy in one training session, you communicate that with her, and you have a plan to go into the session. And if you need to take a step away from something, then there’s no judgement. 

“It’s a case of okay, you’re doing this because that’s what needed for your body and you have the trust from the team that you’re doing the right thing to be ready for the games.”

Kirby believes this approach is particularly important during the intensity of tournament football.

“Everyone sees what you do on the pitch, but it’s everything else that you do behind closed doors, and I’ve really understood my body and understood how important that is with the tournaments I’ve been a part of,” she added.

“Tournaments are decided by who can stay the freshest longest, because it’s going to get to a point where the game is going to come down to maybe extra time, and you have to make sure that you’re fresh enough to do it. That has been one of the major things that I’ve learned over the years.” 

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