From the age of 8 a young girl would catch the eye of Reading and even with exceptional talent at this young age, no-one probably expected that over the next 14 years, this young promising star would break records and would generate the highest transfer fee in women's football to date.
After losing her mother at a very young age, Francesca Kirby quit football but after rekindling her love for the sport she would return to Reading a totally different player. During the 2014 season Fran cemented her superstar status by netting 29 goals in 22 games, debuting for the England seniors (and scoring), winning two awards and playing Germany at Wembley in front of 46,000 fans. After that there was only one more thing to do...star in a World Cup.
While out in Canada Fran scored England's opening goal in a win against Mexico and the world were introduced to the girl dubbed "mini-Messi" by tinkerman Mark Sampson and Franmania began. Discussions had started within the Royals fan group that it would be very hard for Reading FC Women to hold on to Fran after the World Cup but her dedication to the team, their chance of promotion and the sheer support by the fans meant they were fairly confident she would return to England as a Royal.
Fran would return to England in blue and white but unfortunately for the Royals fans, it would be for Chelsea Ladies not Reading. The highest paid transfer fee before this was Lucy Bronze who joined Manchester City Women from Liverpool Ladies for a rumoured £40,000, yet it is said that the fee has now been smashed as rumours state between £50,000 and £60,000 for Fran (fee undisclosed).
Not a one woman team
Over the course of the season, those outside of the Royals family put most of Reading FC Women's success in the league down to Fran however, this was not the case. Although Fran made a huge difference on the score sheet, on the pitch the rest of the team were just formidable and proved this as Fran head out with the England squad by winning every game until the break and with the departure of Fran, this was their time to silence the critics as they won their first game back after the break against Durham 3-0.
Fran's move to Chelsea although a blow for the fans is the right thing to do for this young superstar. She will get to play on a different stage, play in more cups against teams from all over the country and will play in front of audiences of thousands and even though she's no longer in the blue and white hoops, she will never forget her roots. She will become a household name and possibly the start of a change for women's football as young girls will grow up to idolise her just like she did to those she is now playing with and against and the future of Francesca Kirby has just begun.
Reading FC Women will power on determined to prove to the rest of the football world they are still a force to be reckoned with. They defeated Durham Women 3-0 recently and still sit at the top of WSL 2 with a goal difference of 4+. The strike force of Emma Follis (who only needs two goals to pass Fran) and Lauren Bruton has been beefed up with a returning Royal, Nicola Watts who was signed on deadline day from Bristol Academy. Nicola left Reading FC Women to join Bristol Academy in 2012 and almost scored on her second debut against Durham.
The future looks bright for Reading FC Women and Fran Kirby who will meet again on opposite sides as Reading face Chelsea in the first game of the Continental Tyres Cup on Wednesday July 22nd. As part of the transfer deal, Fran is not eligible to play but she will be at Farnborough to watch the game unfold. Last year's Conti Cup saw Chelsea win 2-1 so the pressure is on this year to not only grab a win back but also send a message to Chelsea that the loss of Fran does not change the force of the team. Whatever happens, it's going to be one intense match and not to be missed! Kick off is 7:45pm.
Three days after the Royals face Chelsea, they will face fourth place Aston Villa in the league and another chance to show what they are made of. The only ones who can write the Royals future is Reading, the coaching team and the staff. They are a very tight knit team and they will continue with one thing on their mind...promotion (they might be thinking about the trophy too).