SOCCER

English heroine Chloe Kelly: an iconic celebration and the perfect mix of fire and ice

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“It’s one of the only times in women’s football where I’ve seen a training ground collapse,” said Willie Kirk, who coached Chloe Kelly at Everton. Athleticism after the final of the 2022 European Championship.

“It was two players desperate to win, throwing themselves into a real meaty challenge and a bit of afters. Chloe and one of the players kicked each other a few times, they clashed, but it was over very quickly. It showed how competitive they were.

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“That’s a good way to sum it up: fire and ice. She takes penalties under pressure, definitely has ice in her veins and plays with a lot of fire.

This time last year, Kelly couldn’t stand watching Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics on TV as she sat at home recovering from a ruptured right anterior cruciate ligament, a injury sustained in May 2021.

Fast forward a year and the 24-year-old has just written into the history books as the winner of England’s 2-1 Euro 2022 win over Germany. In the 110th minute, the second-half substitute latched onto a loose ball with her right foot outstretched and her toe poked it home.


Chloe Kelly drives the ball home to make England European champions (Photo: Julian Finney – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Kelly went to take off her top, stopped to check if the goal had been given, then stripped, twirling her shirt around her head à la Brandi Chastain. The USWNT player had done the same after scoring the decisive penalty in the 1999 World Cup final against China.

“Iconic, heroine, it’s a legend! said her England teammate Rachel Daly after the game.

“I just went crazy,” Kelly says, an English cowgirl hat perched on her head.

” I did not know what to do. I didn’t think about it or plan for it. It was good, wasn’t it?

OK? This goal celebration will go down in football history.


As a child, Kelly grew up in Ealing, west London, and used to take the No. 92 bus to Wembley on the last day of the FA Cup just to buy a match program and go home. At the age of 16, the Queens Park Rangers fan returned to the stadium and witnessed Bobby Zamora’s last winner in the 2014 Championship play-off final against Derby County.

“I said to my family this morning, ‘There’s going to be a Bobby Zamora moment today,’ and there was,” Kelly smiles.

The youngest of seven siblings, there was no doubt that Kelly would become extremely competitive. His five older brothers – Daniel, the eldest, then Jack, followed by triplets Ryan, Jamie and Martin – brought their little sister to play football with their friends in cages in central London. Unable to physically compete with the boys, the Elthorne Park school pupil soon learned to use tricks to get out of trouble. Kelly started at boyhood club Queens Park Rangers before moving to center of excellence Arsenal.

The influence of Kelly’s brothers on his competitive nature was evident. “She would have a big blast if she lost a match in practice,” says Kirk.

“She is focused, determined and competitive against her opponents, but also with herself.”

Despite that laser-focused focus, Sunday’s goal celebration came as no surprise to the former Everton manager. Kelly is known to be “fairly outgoing” but also “calm and collected”, a player who would also celebrate goals in training, such was her competitiveness.

“With a player like Chloe, you just have to give them the freedom and the license to play because she’s so creative and exciting.”


During the 2019-20 season, Kelly recovered from ankle surgery to score nine goals in 12 games, finishing as Everton’s top scorer as they finished sixth in the Women’s Super League.

“Technically, she was moving very well with the ball,” says Kirk. “She has great balance, which is a nightmare for defenders. If you were under pressure in your own half, she would just take it on the run. They don’t know if she’s going inside or outside, she can move the ball quickly with both feet. She is really unpredictable. When you prevent her from going inside to shoot her right, she will go outside and put a cross with her left.


Kelly controls the ball under pressure from England team-mate Jill Scott during a game against Manchester City (Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

“We changed our kick off to have her take it immediately on the dribble. Half the time she would buy a 10 yard foul inside their half in seconds, putting you on the front foot from the start.

“One thing I loved about her was that she was getting kicked so often, but she would never be afraid to want the ball again. She just wanted the ball all the time.

When Kelly signed a two-year deal with Manchester City in 2020, she left a massive hole in Everton’s attack. Every move went through her and Kirk was “gutted” when she left. She continued her fine form under City boss Gareth Taylor, registering 16 goals and 14 assists in 34 appearances in her debut season.


In the penultimate game of the 2020-21 season, however, Kelly tore her ACL, a blow to the Olympic hopeful. It would be a race against time to see if she could be fit enough for this summer’s delayed Euros.

“I was there in the dark days when we were both on the bike, almost in tears, sweating and struggling to watch all the girls go and play for England, even at Wembley,” said the former City teammate Lucy Bronze, who was also recovering from injury and joined Kelly for boxing sessions as part of their rehabilitation.

“We were missing so many games. I came back much earlier and she had a mountain to climb. I stood by her side and watched her climb that mountain every second of the way.

After 11 months away, Kelly returned to the pitch on April 2 and had six weeks to convince England coach Sarina Wiegman to name her in the provisional Euro 2022 squad.

“When the team was announced, Chloe was the first one I wanted to congratulate,” says Bronze. “For her to have the winner tonight, I’m so proud and I know how much it means to her.”

She fired a few speculative shots during the Euros, but her decisive goal – and that iconic celebration – will be all anyone will remember.

“Honestly, I don’t feel the pressure. Since my injury, I’m not afraid of anything anymore,” says Kelly.

“It just goes to show that an ACL injury doesn’t define someone’s career. You don’t know what’s around the corner and that was it,” she smiles as she looks down at her medal. European gold.

“Thank you to everyone who played a part in my rehabilitation because I always believed I could be here but score the winner, wow!”

The best is yet to come from Kelly. His fluidity, free-spirited nature, creativity and drive to beat players were born for the international stage.

“We need more of that in this country,” says former Chelsea winger Gemma Davison. “Of all the wingers England have, she is the new generation. She is the player I would pay to watch every week.

(Top photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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