England's Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring the game-winning goal against Germany in extra time of the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 final. (Lynn Cameron / The FA / Getty Images)
Lynn Cameron / The FA / Getty Images

Chloe Kelly and England are Looking Ahead after Euros Success

Chloe Kelly admitted it “feels like yesterday” since England were last at their Lensbury Hotel base, as they return this week to the venue where they spent their historic summer, leading up to the July final against Germany which saw the Lionesses finally win their first major trophy.

The Manchester City winger has returned to the squad after missing games against Austria and Luxembourg through injury, coming back in off the back of her memorable winning goal – and celebration – at Wembley just over two months ago.

“When we came back into the Lensbury it literally felt like we were back and that we’d only been away for a few days,” said Kelly, ahead of Friday’s match against world champions USA. “I feel like our mindset has changed on to the World Cup. We had such a great summer and that gives you so much positive energy around the group, I feel like everyone is just excited to learn and excited to get back on the pitch together.

“We had so much fun off the pitch too, it was brilliant, we just enjoyed each other’s company and we had great times together as a team, so yeah, coming back here brings back so many memories.”

As was evident throughout the summer, Kelly and her teammates are working under a head coach who won’t let the players get too ahead of themselves, with a World Cup now less than a year away.

Facing the world champions is the ultimate test for the new European champions, albeit with both sides missing key players, and Kelly says there has been a message regarding looking ahead, but also admitted the team will also look back in order to keep improving.

“Definitely, but it’s also about reflecting on the summer and where we can possibly be even better and of course next year another tournament and it being so close together, it gives you the opportunity to reflect on where you can improve, but it being around the corner it doesn’t give you too long. You can’t celebrate for too long.”

The Lionesses will be missing captain Leah Williamson who picked up an injury in training this week, as well as striker Alessia Russo, with first-time pick Lucy Parker also out of the squad.

USA are missing attacking threats such as Alex Morgan and Catarina Macario, but with new young talent coming through such as Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Sanchez, Naomi Girma and co, Kelly knows it is going to be a tough test, albeit potentially a different one to the past.

“Possibly. It’s another young team with young players, but we expect another physical challenge for us.

“The league over there is brilliant too, we need to know the threats they pose, technically as well, because they’re a great team and we can’t get carried away with thinking they’re just physical. They’re going to challenge us in different ways and we have to be ready for that challenge.”

There’s no doubt life has changed for every Lioness since the summer, but possibly Kelly more than anyone, given it was her goal that secured the European Championship, and the iconic celebration which followed.

Now she’s back with England and will be back at Wembley on Friday night, Kelly reflected on what has been a crazy few months for her since July’s final.

“It’s been busy but I think football always comes first for me, focusing on the pitch. I am enjoying myself, but my focus turns to next summer now.

“I didn’t play too many minutes, as in my body being tired, but mentally it was definitely tiring. But it felt so good to get back on the pitch, I was excited to get back on the pitch and learn. The winning feel, you just want more of that once you’ve tasted it.”

She was also circumspect when reflecting on the extra attention she’s had out in public since shooting into the public limelight.

“It was a bit mad to be honest. I am just a normal girl, ain’t I? To be noticed in the street a little bit more is a bit crazy.

“One day I was going to meet the girls at City and a car pulled up of loads of girls and started shouting my name. So I’m there waving, thinking it was the City girls, and then I was like – I don’t know any of these people! I was just walking down to the city of Manchester and I was like, ‘wait, this is weird!’

“I am enjoying the moment, but it is about performing on the pitch. I just want to improve on the pitch and keep learning, because now you taste the winning feeling it just makes it even more exciting to win more.”

The goal against Germany won’t be the most glamorous Kelly has scored in her career, but even at her young age it may well end up being the most important.

After having her first England goal against Belgium earlier in the summer taken away from her, it meant the Wembley winner was indeed her first for her country, but she doesn’t want to be defined by one moment.

“Of course the goal will always stick in people’s minds,” she said. “I want to be living that moment for the rest of my life, but also many of these good moments as well [in the future].

“I think it just makes me excited to learn and be better. I have got so much to learn and that’s what excites me. We have had such a high moment and it can only get better because I am improving.”

And how did you she grounded, given the plaudits coming her way?

“It was quite easy to be fair, because I want to experience that winning feeling even more. One medal round your neck is probably not enough because I just want to win. To do it with such a great bunch of girls it makes you so much more hungrier to get back on the pitch.

“I was so excited to just get back on the pitch and learn, because obviously I am so young so I want to experience these winning feelings so much more in my career.”