Nearly a decade ago, in the ‘war room’ at St George’s Park where England’s football future is forecasted, staff predicted the Lionesses’ starting XI for this summer’s Euros.
Kirby, remembers Steven Fraser, seemed destined for greatness ever since her first big taste of international football, over 2000 miles away from Wembley in Kazan, Russia, when she claimed player of the tournament honours at the 2013 Summer Universiade.
“We always wondered, ‘where would everyone end up?’” Fraser, who served as a talent ID scout for the England FA national teams from 2015-2017, and now works for Arsenal’s academy, told the PA news agency.
“There were a lot of girls way down, or weren’t even on the chart, that have just stepped up and proven everybody wrong, and I love that.
“Looking back is really cool, because Fran is doing exactly what we thought she would if not even better, which is quite a rare thing.
“It’s really hard to tell in football at 19, 20 if that player would be at their peak, playing for their country, in 8-10 years. But she’s doing it.
“To prove doubters wrong is awesome, but to prove everyone right, I think it’s probably even more difficult to maintain that play at a high level, so I’m just thrilled for her.”
At 20, the forward was one of the youngest members of the Great Brtiain squad that travelled to Russia.
Fraser, then the goalkeeping coach, was part of a staff that also included lead coach Kay Cossington, now the FA’s head of women’s technical, alongside Tottenham manager Rehanne Skinner.
“Despite being the youngest normally, maybe the smallest on the pitch, she was the most effective,” Fraser said.
“That kind of skill and creativity, it was quite easy to see at that age. She really is a genius. To be able to do that, at any age, at any level, is just amazing.”
Kirby attended her first England camp, for the under-23 squad, just before flying to Kazan.
She set down a marker in the first match, scoring in the 62nd minute before netting three more times before the final.
It was 2-2 to start the second half, with Mexico defending deep and playing for extra time, when GB opened the floodgates, scoring four goals in nine minutes – two of them Kirby’s.
“Fran was the game-changer,” Fraser recalled.
It was, he thinks, a turning point for the future Chelsea and England player, who at 14 had suddenly lost her mother Denise to a brain haemorrhage and took a hiatus from the game.
“Just treating her like a person and a footballer again, that was our main goal,” said Fraser. “She was fairly outwardly confident in body language but she’d never boast or brag and say ‘I deserve this or I deserve that’.
“That intrinsic motivation was always there, but to have that kind of external praise in winning player of the tournament, that must have done wonders, affirming what she believed inside but to see other people believe it as well.”
Fraser hopes Sunday’s final will spark the same for millions more.
He added: “She’s been through so much, and she’s put herself in another position to win silverware and international accolades. And, again, probably no one deserves it more than her.”