HAVING been one of England’s leading lights for half a decade, Fran Kirby has an acute understanding on the importance of the Lionesses’ travelling show.
Chelsea star Kirby, one of the world’s best No.10s, made her England bow – and also found the net – back in 2014 in front of a modest 4,547 supporters at Hartlepool’s Victoria Park.
The Lionesses strut their stuff in front of hugely more sizeable crowds and as Phil Neville’s side gear up to this summer’s Women’s World Cup, they will visit the Energy Check County Ground in Swindon on Tuesday, April 9, to take on Spain as part of the Road to France Series.
England will also play Canada in Manchester and Denmark in Walsall in the coming months and Kirby views touring the nation as a necessary part of the Lionesses’ pre-tournament preparations.
“We want to try and build our fanbase and make people more aware of the women’s game, so we know that we have to travel to different places, play in different stadiums, and we really enjoy it,” said the 25-year-old.
“We really enjoying travelling up and down the country representing England and seeing how many fans we get in different places – it’s really special for us.
“It’s great to see how the women’s game is growing.
“I’ve played for the England team for a number of years now and you see the difference and the number of people we’re getting to each game, or even the size of the stadium.
“My debut was in Hartlepool and it was great but then, we’ve gone on to play in Southampton at St Mary’s (in a World Cup qualifier against Wales in front of 25,603 in April 2018).
“It’s on a completely different scale to when I first joined, so it’s really special.
“You can see that it’s an evolving sport in this country by the amount of young girls that come out to watch us play.”
Kirby was part of the England team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup in Canada and April’s opponents Spain have already fallen under her spell at a major tournament, with the Chelsea star on target as the Lionesses defeated La Roja 2-0 in the group stages of the 2017 European Championships.
England have twice played in Swindon before, beating Denmark 1-0 in 2009 and Slovenia 4-0 in 2013.
And with Spain in town, reigning PFA player’s player of the year and Football Writers’ women’s footballer of the year Kirby is certain that the Wiltshire faithful are in for a show.
“They’re a great team and they’ve really improved over the years. They’ve always been a side that plays good football and it’s a team that a lot of people fear going to play against,” she said.
“I remember playing them in the Euros. We scored very early on but they had possession for most of the game after that.
“They’re a very possession-based team, so it will be good to play against a team like that going in to the World Cup because they’re probably one of the teams that are going to be in around it, so we want to be playing against the best to see where we’re at.”
England Women host Spain in a ‘Road to France’ international on Tuesday, 9 April at Swindon Town FC, KO 7pm. Tickets available at £10/£1 from www.thefa.com/lionessestickets