Sustaining an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury like Chloe Kelly did in May 2021 is something that every footballer dreads.
With the pressure of a major tournament on home soil approaching, it really pushed Kelly to want to get back to full fitness as quickly as possible to put herself in contention for selection for this summer’s EUROs.
As things turned out, Kelly proved her fitness to England boss Sarina Wiegman and the player has been included in the Lionesses’ final 23-player squad for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022.
A year ago, Kelly wouldn’t have imagined herself in this position after suffering that devastating ACL injury blow at the end of last season. Kelly spoke to FAWSL Full-Time about a whirlwind few weeks in the England camp in a recent media session.
“I always set my goal to be here,” she said confidently. “When I found out (that I was selected), it was so surreal; there were so many emotions.”
Recovering from a serious injury for the best part of a year is going to be tough on anyone, mentally and physically, but with the amazing help from coaches, players, physios and doctors, Kelly made her return to the beautiful game for Manchester City in April before showing England boss Wiegman that she was ready for whatever was thrown at her.
“I just enjoyed every minute on the pitch when I got back,” said Kelly when speaking about her return to the training pitches at St George’s Park. “When you’ve been away from the pitch for so long, you just enjoy every minute you get to be on the pitch.
“After sessions, I was staying out and doing extras because I enjoyed myself so much. I didn’t put pressure on myself even to make the squad, I just had to enjoy my football and then good things come from that and just playing well. Of course, I wanted to be here (in the squad), but I didn’t put that pressure on myself.”
When Wiegman announced her 23-player squad last Wednesday, Kelly had proven herself enough to warrant a place in the squad, much to her delight.
She said “Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. I just wanted to tell my family. We were given this envelope with our sticker and could stick it in the book. I couldn’t open the envelope, my hands were shaking that much.
“I shared a moment with my family and Face-timed literally everyone, my agent, my boyfriend and my family, all in one call. Seeing their emotions after they’d been through the tough times with me was brilliant.”
Another person who has been through Kelly’s journey is former Manchester City teammate Lucy Bronze.
“Lucy’s been a massive help during my rehab,” said Kelly. “During the darkest days, she was there, through the tough times. It’s great to share moments with a player that’s been through the rehab journey with me and it’s great to be back playing on the right-hand side with Lucy.”
Kelly is also very lucky in the sense that she is one of seven current Manchester City players who have been selected for the EUROs squad. If you include Georgia Stanway and Bronze who only departed the club this summer, that’s nine players that Kelly has played with regularly in the Barclays Women’s Super League.
“Football is all about relationships and building relationships with players on the pitch, so it’s great to have so many City players here and all the girls have been brilliant since I’ve been back in the squad,” Kelly said. “There’s a really nice vibe around the group.”
Kelly and England are next in action on Friday evening when they face The Netherlands at Elland Road, Leeds.
By Megan Garbutt