Tuesday 24 March 2015 17:23, UK
Reading Women's striker Fran Kirby says she is living the dream as the first female professional footballer in the history of her hometown club.
Kirby was the leading goalscorer across England's top two divisions of women's football in 2014, netting 29 in 22 appearances for Reading last term.
And she picked up where she left off last season, scoring all four goals in Reading’s 4-2 win at Yeovil Town in their FA WSL 2 opener last week.
"I’ve been with Reading since the age of seven, going up through all the centres of excellence," Kirby told Sky Sports.
"I made my debut for the women's team at 16 and now I feel like I have achieved the dream I’ve had since I was seven by turning professional in the town I live in, with the team I have grown up with.
"The club means everything to me but that has a lot to do with the people involved in it. I've had so many coaches that have helped me along the way through my journey, who understand me and know me as a person.
"I'm just really excited for the new season, and to be able to play for Reading again is incredible. Hopefully we can push hard to get into the top tier of women's football."
Kirby's rise has been astonishing. After earning her first senior England call-up last summer, the 21-year-old walked away with two FA Women's Football awards at a glittering ceremony at Madame Tussauds last November.
"If you'd have told me this time last year I would have achieved what I’ve done I wouldn’t have believed you at all," Kirby said.
"At the start of last season my aim was to be top goalscorer in the league. It's what I set out to do, not to be in the England squad. Obviously you'd like to be, but you have to think of realistic goals as well.
"I just wanted to have a good season, cement my place with the (England) U23s and build from there. But it's just been an absolute whirlwind and to pick up two FA Women's Football Awards was also just incredible."
Kirby was thought to be on the radar of a number of top-flight clubs following her exploits last season but the striker insisted leaving Reading was never an option.
"To be fair, not too many clubs came in for me," she added. "There were a lot of rumours flying around about various clubs but I think a lot of them respected the fact I was contracted to Reading and didn't want to go against any rules.
"I had a chat with (England head coach) Mark Sampson about it and asked him where he wanted me to go from here (in terms of my international future), and he just said as long as I'm enjoying my football and improving he's happy.
"I feel I've done that because I'm training with the boys’ academy at Reading and I'm improving with every training session. I always come out feeling better and stronger.
"I'm also getting better and improving whenever I go to an England camp. As long as I'm improving, enjoying my football and playing well, I don’t see a problem, and neither does Mark, and that's all that matters."