Welcome, my friends. Grab some refreshments from the back then take your seats, we have a lot to cover.
Millie Bright contract extension
First up, our stalwart center-back, Millie Bright, has signed a new three-year contract. Bright is one of the top center-backs in the WSL and her leadership was key to Chelsea allowing the second fewest goals in the league in 2019-20, and posting six clean sheets. Bright also possesses the coveted skills of a modern center-back, with the ability to break lines with passes, or, on occasion, go over the top to drop a ball on Bethany England’s foot from forty-plus yards away.
Opening fixtures announced
Today, the first two rounds of fixtures were also announced (the start date had been announced last week, but without any fixtures). Chelsea’s title defense will begin with a trip north to face Manchester United on September 5-6.
That’s a slightly annoying way to kick things off — United are better than last year, when we only squeezed out two 1-0 wins, both goals coming from an unlikely source in Maren Mjelde.
The second weekend will see Chelsea’s home opener at Kingsmeadow, against Brighton.
The FA Player is BACK
The FA also announced the return of the FA Player for all WSL matches!
Just as last year, matches selected for television in the UK will not be accessible for free within the UK, but those outside will still be able to watch live. The FA Player is FREE and only requires a simple email and password login.
Never miss a match
While we await the full fixture list, the WSL Twitter account has posted individualized links that will download the dates and times of fixtures directly into your calendar. This is a super useful feature that I think you should try.
Chelsea have assembled the most talented squad in the league, and it will be interesting to see how Emma Hayes gets them to put it all together. There are a lot of new faces who could play huge roles, and some familiar faces who are just as hungry to excel. This season will be fun, and without an international TV rights deal, this is a great way to make sure you’re following.
Get the fixtures straight to your calendar https://t.co/Q63xRMiR3P— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) August 7, 2020
Fran Kirby update
Last but certainly not least, Super Fran Kirby is back!
Kirby’s 2019-20 season was not at all anything that she or anyone else expected. After being diagnosed with pericarditis — a mysterious heart condition that tends to dissipate on its own but can take weeks, or months — she was limited to two starts and two sub appearances (and notched 3 assists in 317 total minutes, because she is absurd).
Speaking to Alex Scott via an Instagram Live chat, Kirby revealed that she almost called Emma Hayes a number of times to quit the team and focus on her health. It would have been understandable. Not only has Kirby been through a lot in her personal life, but pericarditis is also a brutal condition to cope with, particularly for an elite athlete.
“I was in a place where I just completely zoned out of everything. I was a ghost, a zombie, I wasn’t really there. I went from pushing myself to being able to train all week after coming back from injury and getting back involved to not being allowed to walk up the stairs more than twice in a day. That’s how extreme it was. I wasn’t allowed to go for a walk, I wasn’t allowed to do anything that would put stress on me, I had to lay on the sofa. For two months.”
–Fran Kirby; source: Instagram Live
Personally, I want whatever is best for Fran Kirby the person, and I hope her recovery is full and that she gets to do whatever she wants while healthy and free.
For Fran the athlete and superstar Chelsea player, I am so excited and thankful that she has pushed so hard to return to the pitch. Earlier this week she reported that she was able to complete a 90-minute match for the first time in nine months.
Perhaps no one on the team deserves to be around more for Chelsea’s drive to the top, and run at the Champions League trophy than Kirby. She has been the star player for years, and dedicated to Chelsea so much of herself, her time, frustrations, hope, healing, love, sweat, and, of course, goals and assists. From a footballing perspective, it would be incredible to have Fran central to the team again as we once again fill the season’s trophy cabinet.