Women’s Nations League: Fran Kirby back for England after knee surgery

17 October 2023 0 By Total Football News

By Emma SandersBBC Sport

Fran Kirby against the USA last yearFran Kirby started her first game for Chelsea in eight months on Saturday

Chelsea midfielder Fran Kirby is back in the England squad for this month's Women's Nations League matches after recovering from injury.

Kirby, 30, had knee surgery in May and missed the Women's World Cup.

She started her first game for Chelsea in eight months on Saturday, impressing in a victory over West Ham.

"Of course it's very nice Fran is back on the pitch and she's fit and healthy," said manager Sarina Wiegman, who has named a 25-player squad.

"I thought she played very well when she came back [for Chelsea]. She's been building up to those moments in the summer.

"She has shown enough quality in her performance that I think it's good she comes back into the team. She was really happy when I called her and she's good to go."

Sarina Wiegman on Fran Kirby's return

Barcelona midfielder Keira Walsh also returns from a calf injury which ruled her out of England's win over Scotland and defeat by the Netherlands.

The 26-year-old's last appearance for the Lionesses was the World Cup final defeat by Spain in August.

Forward Beth Mead, who missed the World Cup with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, made her return for Arsenal in Sunday's Women's Super League victory over Aston Villa but is not selected.

"To be honest, [Mead] was not close," added Wiegman. "She is in a good place now but has been out for nine months.

"She had her first minutes which was nice to see but she first has to build at club, get that consistency back and then we have an opportunity to select her.

"Of course it's nice to have [Walsh] back. We have other players ready too but it's nice to have her back because she is a very good player."

Keira Walsh against SpainKeira Walsh's last England appearance was the World Cup final defeat by Spain in August

Wiegman called up midfielder Grace Clinton and goalkeeper Khiara Keating for the first time after impressive starts to the season for their respective clubs.

Tottenham's Clinton, on loan from Manchester United, scored a stunning goal in Sunday's 3-1 win over Brighton, while Manchester City goalkeeper Keating has taken the number one shirt from Lionesses team-mate Ellie Roebuck this season.

"Yes, [their development] goes fast but they have shown good performances," said Wiegman.

"I want to see how they relate to the other players in the squad and for them to show what they can do. They performed really well.

"We saw them also in the U23s. Now at the highest level they have shown performances. It's exciting for them and good to see for us too."

The return of Kirby and Walsh sees experienced midfielders Laura Coombs and Jordan Nobbs drop out of the squad, while Villa's Lucy Staniforth and Brighton's Katie Robinson are also not included. Wiegman said their absences was due to "competition in their positions".

England play Belgium at Leicester City's King Power Stadium on Friday, 27 October before travelling to Leuven to face the same opponents on Tuesday, 31 October.

'I feel safe enough to go to Belgium'

About 400 Sweden fans spent the night in hotels under police protection after two Swedish people were shot dead in Brussels on Monday, two weeks before the Lionesses are set to travel to the country.

Sweden's Euro 2024 qualifier against Belgium was abandoned at half-time for security reasons on Monday night with police in Brussels shooting the attacker dead on Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Belgium Prime Minister Alexander de Croo called the killings "a harrowing act of terrorism".

Asked whether there were any concerns over England's safety in Belgium, Wiegman said she was yet to speak to the players but she feels "safe enough" to travel.

"Of course it's an awful situation. Two people killed, very, very horrible," said Wiegman.

"The Football Association has had conversations with the Belgium FA and it's all about safety. I feel safe enough to go there. There are conversations going on and they will do everything to make us safe."

Full England squad

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Khiara Keating (Manchester City)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Maya Le Tissier (Manchester United), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Lucy Parker (Aston Villa), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)

Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham, on loan from Manchester United), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Katie Zelem (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Barcelona)

Forwards: Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Alessia Russo (Arsenal), Jess Park (Manchester City).

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