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Hail Fran! A worthy winner

Hail Fran! A worthy winner

It's an honour that is richly deserved for her inspirational performances over a long, tiring season, and it's no real surprise that she won it... but it's still a magnificent achievement to lift the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year award. Hail Fran Kirby, a worthy winner. The Chelsea striker set off to London's

It’s an honour that is richly deserved for her inspirational performances over a long, tiring season, and it’s no real surprise that she won it… but it’s still a magnificent achievement to lift the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year award. Hail Fran Kirby, a worthy winner.

The Chelsea striker set off to London’s Grosvenor House Hotel as soon as she’d showered and changed after the tough Chelsea Ladies’ Champions League defeat on Sunday afternoon against Wolfsburg, travelling with six team-mates who had also been nominated in the prestigious awards.

Instigated in 2013, and won once before by Chelsea when Ji So-Yun collected the top prize in 2015, the trophy – almost as big as Fran herself – was presented by Marcos Alonso, at a loose end during a three-match suspension.

Ji was in second place and Maren Mjelde third, completing a remarkable Chelsea hat-trick.

Fran was the Women’s Super League’s top scorer as Chelsea Ladies won the WSL Spring Series last year, carrying that form on into the current season with 22 goals scored so far, including the brace against Manchester City which took the Blues to another Women’s FA Cup final.

Kirby was also part of the England attack at last summer’s Euros, and netted her 100th senior career goal while wearing her Lioness shirt last autumn.

“It is very humbling for me,” said the always talkative Kirby, wearing her little black dress on the Grosvenor House stage. “I have to say a massive thank you to everyone who voted for me, it is great that people don’t mind me scoring against them once in a while!

“I am really happy to win this award and thank you to my team-mates who have enabled me to be in this position.

“Coming back off a long-term injury, the main thing was to play as much as I could and I have done that and I want to win as much as I can with Chelsea and hopefully with England as well.”

Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes said of the striker: “Fran is back to her best level after suffering a terrible injury and she deserves credit for the work she’s done behind the scenes, when no one is looking, the determination she has shown to get her to this place.

“She’s shown the quality of her finishing, which we all knew about her, but people need to credit the amount of running she does off the ball, especially with the schedule we’ve had. As far as I’m concerned she’s the best English attacking player in the country – and by a country mile.”

Also nominated for Women’s Players’ Player in addition to Kirby, Ji and Mjelde were Ramona Bachmann and Millie Bright. Manchester City’s Jill Scott was the only non-Chelsea player on the shortlist. Erin Cuthbert was nominated for Women’s Young Player of the Year, though it eventually went to Lauren Hemp of Bristol City Women.

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