Kirby back in England squad
By Paul Lagan
Fran Kirby has returned to the England squad following a period of illness and injury which meant the Chelsea striker missed the World Cup.
Sarina Wiegman has named the 25-player squad for England’s UEFA Women’s Nations League double header against Belgium later this month.
Midfielder Grace Clinton and goalkeeper Khiara Keating are celebrating their first call-ups to the senior squad, Keira Walsh also returns from injury.
Clinton – on loan with Tottenham Hotspur from Manchester United - and Manchester City’s Keating make the step up from the England Women’s U23s squad after their impressive starts to the new Barclays WSL season.
The Lionesses face Belgium twice in quick succession in a finely poised UEFA Women’s Nations League group. They will first be in action on Friday, October 27 at Leicester City and then travel to Leuven to face the Red Flames four days later.
It is the Lionesses first trip to Leicester since a 1-1 draw with Sweden in September 1980 and a sell-out crowd await them.
Belgium are familiar opposition, with England defeating them in February of this year to win the 2023 Arnold Clark Cup and they also claimed a 3-0 victory in June 2022 in a preparation fixture for the UEFA Women’s EURO. The Lionesses' last trip to Leuven was an entertaining 3-3 draw in August 2019.
Wiegman said: “It’s good for us to be back together. Obviously we had a good start with the win against Scotland; however, the outcome of our last fixture against the Netherlands was disappointing. We will be fully focused to perform well twice against tough opposition. Belgium’s results in the Nations League show they are talented side who can cause teams problems, so we will need to be at our best to get the results we’re looking for.
“The group is wide open, so every game is crucial. The squad have shown their ability to respond to setbacks and I’m sure this will be no different. We look forward to meeting up at St George’s Park next Monday and putting in the time to make sure we’re fully prepared and ready to go twice in quick succession.
“Again we feel very fortunate to be playing in front of a sell-out crowd. The support we are receiving from all corners of the country is amazing, it isn’t something we’ll ever take for granted and it really gives us that extra lift. Hopefully we can give them another night to remember.”
The UEFA Women’s Nations League campaign sees England also drawn with the Netherlands and Scotland in one of a quartet of League A four-team groups. Having beaten Scotland, and suffered a late defeat by the Netherlands, the Lionesses face the table-topping Belgians knowing the winners of each section will qualify for the semi-finals in February, before a final is played to determine the overall champions.
The Lionesses’ home game at Leicester City is sold out but there is still the chance to watch the England Women’s U23s in action this month. The Young Lionesses will look to continue their unbeaten start to their new European league. Emma Coates’ side travel away to face Italy on Thursday 26 October, before welcoming Portugal to the Joie Stadium, home of Manchester City, on Monday 30 October. Tickets for the Portugal fixture can be purchased from Manchester City.