05.06.2019 18:35 h

England star Kirby driven on by late mother's memory

England forward Fran Kirby's first thought if she and her team-mates lift the Women's World Cup in France on July 7 will be for her late mother, Denise.

The 25-year-old Chelsea star told The Players' Tribune the impact of her mum's death after suffering a brain haemorrhage only really hit her years afterwards.

Denise, who was a nurse on psychiatric wards and had done a spell at Broadmoor Hospital which housed the likes of the Yorkshire Ripper, the serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, had always told her daughter she would be a great footballer.

However, those words of encouragement and belief came to a juddering halt when Kirby was just 14. Her mother collapsed when they were at Reading football club for a review of the season, and died the next day.

Kirby recalls treating the immediate aftermath relatively lightly, playing reggae legend Bob Marley's 'Don't Worry About A Thing' on her phone as her best friend was in tears.

However, the delayed emotional reaction finally came in May last year.

She was travelling back from Liverpool with Chelsea having wrapped up the domestic double, and swept the footballer of the year awards while being nominated for the Ballon d'Or.

"You can imagine the mood on the bus," she said.

"In the seats around me, the girls were on fire, singing and celebrating.

"And I ... I was crying.

"I realise now how weird it must have looked.

"My teammates were probably thinking, 'Why is she crying? We've just won the double.'

"But all I wanted to do was make a call. There was only one person that I wanted to share that moment with. And I knew I couldn't.

"I never will."

Kirby, who will hope her second World Cup finals is a happier memory after injury ruled her out of the quarter-finals and semi-finals in 2015, said she would have so loved her mum to have witnessed her achievements.

"I think about her every day, but especially when things are going well, because I want to celebrate with her," said Kirby.

"To see me win everything like that, it would have been the most important moment of her life.

"And so I cried. I let it all out.

"I just didn't feel like being tough or strong. I didn't feel like caring about what the other girls thought.

"This time there was no pretending to be O.K. when I wasn't."

Kirby, labelled the 'mini Messi' by former England coach Mark Sampson, said her life felt incomplete without her mother.

"My life has often felt like a scattered puzzle, but even when everything seems perfect, and I can see the whole picture, there is still that piece missing," she said.

"My mum is still present in my life. Every goal I score, I dedicate to her. When I am not doing well, I also think about her.

"Sometimes I can still hear her loud voice as she drags me into the car to go to training."