England midfielder Fran Kirby says she “won’t forget” the reception she received from fans on her return to international duty after a year out.
Kirby, 30, came on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Belgium in the Women’s Nations League on Friday.
She missed the World Cup this summer following knee surgery in March.
“It’s frustrating when I’m injured and can’t be out there. To hear that reception when I come on is really special,” said Kirby.
“The support that I’ve had over the past year has been incredible from fans, the national team and at Chelsea.
“I can’t fault anyone for their support and that has been really pivotal for me coming back. I’ve been working really hard to get back out on the pitch as much as possible and I want to stay there.”
Kirby has been instrumental for England in a number 10 role and started every match at Euro 2022, but last appeared for the national team in October 2022.
Since her return with Chelsea this season, she has featured in every Women’s Super League match, starting back-to-back games this month.
She has battled with injury issues and illness throughout her career, struggling with fatigue in the build-up to Euro 2022.
“At the beginning of my injury it was quite tough because you don’t really know when the end of the injury is,” said Kirby.
“I accepted quite early on that I wasn’t going to be part of the World Cup squad, not that it made it any easier.
“I was able to support the girls and feel the same emotions that they were feeling and going through. Being back with them now just means all of the hard work paid off in the summer.”
Kirby came on as a substitute alongside Aston Villa striker Rachel Daly and received words of support from her team-mate.
“She was super supportive when I came on. She was just saying how happy she was to have me back and around the girls,” said Kirby.
“She said to just run with it when I get the ball. It was really nice to hear from a team-mate that they’re pleased to see you and that they have missed you.”