Women’s Super League: Chelsea’s Fran Kirby says it is the ‘hardest thing’ for team to win title again

Fran Kirby says it will be the “hardest thing” for Chelsea win back-to-back titles because every team in the Women’s Super League wants to beat the champions.

Chelsea are the reigning champions after winning the curtailed 2019-20 campaign on a points-per-game basis, and showed their credentials for the new season by beating Manchester City in the Community Shield.

No team has retained the WSL since Liverpool in 2014 and Chelsea start their title defence against Manchester United on Sunday.

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Kirby told The Women’s Football Show: “Of course everyone now is going to be out to beat the champions which I think is always the hardest thing.

“It’s always hard to be the champions and then continue to dominate in the next season.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens, I think we always know that we have a lot of competitiveness in our league and we know that we can’t take any game for granted.

“We have to perform at the level we can every game,” the England forward added.

“For us we want to go back-to-back winners – champions. We want to win all the trophies that we can and we’re going to do everything we can to do that.

‘A difficult journey but now I’m feeling really good’

Kirby also spoke about the difficulty of not being able to play for the nine months because of a rare heart condition which almost caused her to retire.

She was ill with pericarditis – an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac around the heart – after Chelsea played Manchester United on November 17.

Kirby finally made her first start this year in the Community Shield victory against Manchester City last month.

“The last few months have been a difficult journey for me. It’s one that I’ve taken to allow time for myself,” she said.

“Time to focus on what I want to achieve and how I am as a person. As much as it was a really negative part of my life I’ve tried to see the positives and come out on the other side positive.

“I’m feeling really good, I’m really happy and I’m just excited. I’m feeling really really well.”

‘I kicked chairs supporting Chelsea on the sidelines’

The Chelsea forward also talked to The Women’s Football Show about the transition from being on the pitch to supporting the team last season.

“I became a number one fan during my time when I was on the sidelines. I was supporting them every ounce of the way. If there was a video of me after we score a winner I was probably cheering the loudest out of everyone.

“I remember when Beth (England) scored in the Continental Cup final I was kicking chairs, I was hitting people I was just so happy!

“For me I accepted what was happening and I accepted I wasn’t able to play but I knew I could be there for the girls.

“I knew I could be the loudest one cheering and being there and wanting the girls to do well.

“I was really proud to see them go through the season like they did and win the games that they did and I was so glad to be a part of it as much as I could be.

‘Chelsea are apart from the rest’

Last season’s WSL champions have boosted their squad and will be hoping their new additions can lead their title challenge.

They made the blockbuster signing of Denmark forward Pernille Harder from Wolfsburg on a three-year deal for a British record fee in excess of £250,000.

Emma Hayes’ side already have last season’s player of the year, Bethany England, and will also have Australia forward Sam Kerr, who will get a chance to experience her first full WSL season after signing last November.

Former England international Sue Smith thinks Chelsea start the season as favourites.

“The quality of the Women’s Super League now is the likes of Manchester City have also really strengthened and are looking really good for the start of the season,” she said,

“You look at Arsenal again, they’re not going to go away. They’ve got some top quality players that are going to be competing.

“The likes of Reading, Manchester United, Everton, you could go through the whole teams and say they’ve all strengthened, they all want to be part of this.

“At the moment Chelsea for me are looking very very strong. That strength in depth puts them maybe just a little bit apart from the rest.”

That view was echoed by former Chelsea player Claire Rafferty, who told Sky Sports News the team has an “incredible attack”.

“Pernille Harder stands out for me as one of the biggest signings of the summer,” she said. “For me she is the best number 10 in Europe if not the world.

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