Fran Kirby: Chelsea forward wins Football Writers' Association Women's Footballer of the Year award

Fran Kirby wins FWA award for second time following 2017/18 triumph; England forward has been a key figure in Chelsea's Women's Super League triumph and progression to Sunday's Champions League final; Kirby returned at the start of season from a career-threatening viral illness

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Chelsea forward Fran Kirby reacts to being named the FWA Women's Footballer of the Year on her return from a career-threatening illness

Chelsea forward Fran Kirby has been named the Football Writers' Association Women's Footballer of the Year for the second time in her career.

Kirby, 27, played a starring role as Chelsea secured a second successive Women's Super League title, scoring 16 goals, while also contributing 11 assists.

The England forward has also spearheaded Chelsea's path to a first Women's Champions League final, sitting as the competition's joint top scorer with six goals going into Sunday's clash with Barcelona.

"It's really special," Kirby told Sky Sports News after adding to her 2017/18 award.

"I think everyone in this building knows that I play for this team, I play for every single person who walks in here every day and I think I show that in my performances.

"I will run through a brick wall for these girls and all the staff and I think everyone can see that, and I'm really, really humbled to win these awards and it's amazing, but I know that I would never be able to achieve anything that I've achieved without them."

Kirby's stunning season followed a near year-long absence with a viral illness that threatened to end her career.

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In November 2019 she was diagnosed with pericarditis - relating to swelling around her heart - and returned to action at the start of the 2020/21 campaign with limited expectations.

Fran Kirby joined Chelsea from Reading in 2015
Image: Kirby has scored 16 goals and contributed 11 assists in the Women's Super League this season

"For me at the beginning of the year I had no expectations of how my year was going to go," Kirby said.

"I remember speaking to people and just saying, 'I just want to get on the pitch, whether it's for five minutes, whether it's for 10 minutes'. I had no idea how my year was going to pan out.

"I was so motivated to come back and to be able to come back in a good way for my team-mates. I didn't want to come back in and be someone that the team has to carry.

"It was difficult to have to start from scratch. I had no fitness level, I hadn't kicked a football in six months, so I think for me that was the hardest part."

Fran Kirby scored Chelsea's first and fourth goals against Bayern Munich
Image: Kirby has played a crucial role in Chelsea reaching the Women's Champions League final for the first time

Kirby was the unanimous choice of a panel of more than 30 football writers who specialise in the women's game.

Chelsea's Australian striker Sam Kerr, the WSL's Golden Boot winner with 21 goals, was second in the FWA vote, with Manchester City and England winger Chloe Kelly third.

Chair of the FWA's women's sub-committee Jen O'Neill said: "To have overcome a serious health condition and return in such sparkling form is admirable and inspiring.

"Several players, including many of her Chelsea team-mates, have been outstanding in a superb WSL season - but there are fewer more joyful sights in football than a smiling, fit and firing Fran Kirby."

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