Kirby 'has a lot to give' for 'ambitious' Brighton

Fran Kirby
Fran Kirby joined Chelsea in 2015 from Reading [Getty Images]

England international Fran Kirby "strongly believes she still has a lot to give" following her move to Brighton on a free transfer.

The 31-year-old won eight league titles during a hugely impressive nine-year stint at Chelsea and will be considered one of Brighton's biggest signings in their Women's Super League history.

"I said it at the end of last season, I still feel I have so much more to give on and off the pitch," said Kirby, whose Chelsea contract expired this summer.

"Last year I was restricted with minutes in terms of how much I was able to give and show. Hopefully now I can get a good pre-season under my belt, a run of games and show that side of me. I strongly believe I still have a lot to give."

Kirby's career has been plagued with injury and illness but she has remained a key player for England, starting every match as they won Euro 2022.

She returned for Chelsea last season after a lengthy knee injury, ending her Blues career with 63 goals in 114 WSL games.

"Coming into an environment now where I have so much experience, hopefully I can relay that to the players here," added Kirby.

"When it comes down to the hard moments, how you react and how you pull yourself through - hopefully that's something I can bring.

"On the pitch, I'm definitely looking forward to getting myself back to how I was pre-injury. Last year I was able to do basically every training session but wasn't able to show that on the pitch. Hopefully I get a chance to show both this time."

'They want to be taken seriously'

Brighton have expressed a desire to break into the WSL's top four having invested heavily in world-class training facilities.

Kirby said it was "an exciting time" to be joining the club and hopes to help them with their "project".

"I know how much you have to sacrifice to put yourself in that position to be in the top four, never mind winning titles," she added.

"The club's ambition is what they want to do and they made that very clear when I spoke to them. It is a project, it will be really tough and it won't be something that just happens overnight.

"You only have to come down to the training ground to see what they're doing here. I don't think I've ever seen, in the women's game, such amazing facilities.

"I want to be at a club that is fully behind their women's team and wants them to grow, and [it not be] just a tick-box. It was definitely a marker for me to say, 'yeah, OK, this is a serious women's football club and they want to be taken seriously'."

The Lionesses hope to defend their Euros title in Switzerland next year and, while Kirby admits she would "love" to be part of the squad, she insists her decision to join Brighton was not based on that.

"Of course I'd love to do everything I can to be involved in another Euros and help the Lionesses hopefully win it again," added Kirby.

"I'm a competitive person, a competitive trainer, a competitive player, so I wanted to go somewhere where I felt I could keep those standards up.

"I wanted to stay in this league, because I still want to be competing week-in, week-out, and as long as I can help a team progress, then that's what I want to do.

"Success for me would be getting out on the pitch every day, playing for the badge, and winning football games. That's where the success starts."

'Strange' to face old club Chelsea

Fran Kirby says bye to Chelsea fans
Fran Kirby was part of the Chelsea squad that won five successive WSL titles [Getty Images]

Kirby's move to another WSL club means she will come up against former team-mates at Chelsea, where she has spent the bulk of her career after joining from Reading in 2015.

"It will be really weird," she admitted. "I've had some amazing memories at that football club. They helped me achieve things I could never have dreamed of when I first joined.

"It will be really strange playing in front of the Chelsea fans who were so amazing to me throughout my nine years with the club.

"Right now, I'm a Brighton player, so will do everything I can to get a result but Chelsea have world-class players and it will be an extremely difficult task, as it has been for everyone who plays against Chelsea.

"I'm looking forward to it because I want to see the team and the fans again."