Chloe Kelly could not bear to watch her Great Britain team-mates at last summer’s Olympics after being ruled out of the tournament with an anterior cruciate ligament tear in her right knee.
A year on, Kelly become a national treasure with the winning goal as England were crowned European champions and won a first major trophy in women’s football.
The substitute stabbed the ball over the line in extra-time to clinch a 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley and cap a stirring personal comeback.
Kelly has revealed she struggled mentally during 11 months of rehab but the injury changed her outlook, and ensured England’s super sub made every second on the pitch count during the tournament.
In Pictures | Women’s Euro 2022 Final: England vs Germany
“[My injury] was definitely the lowest of the lows, but it just goes to show you don’t know what’s around the corner,” said Kelly, who came off the bench in each of England’s six games at the Euros. “And it was this!
“I don’t feel the pressure, honestly. Since my injury, I don’t think anything scares me, I just embrace every moment and enjoy every minute because you don’t know when that can be taken away from you.
“It’s unbelievable, honestly. It just shows that an ACL doesn’t define someone’s career. I’ve said that from the start of the tournament that I would enjoy every minute and that’s what I’ve done. Just embrace it.
“I said to my family before the game, just embrace every moment because you don’t know when we’ll get these moments again. Just enjoy it, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
The youngest of seven siblings, Kelly was toughened up by playing football with five brothers and in the football ‘cages’ of west London, near her childhood home in Ealing.
The 24-year-old’s family were at Wembley last night to witness her life-changing moment and afterwards she thanked everyone who had helped with her recovery.
“At the final whistle, I didn’t know what to do, honestly,” she said. “It wasn’t until I saw my mum I started crying because she was so emotional.
“Thank you to everyone who played a part in my rehab, because I always believed I could be here, but to score the winner … wow.
“These girls are special, the manager is special and what a special group of staff. This is amazing. All my family are in the crowd. My mum, all my brothers, my sister, all my nephews, everyone. I just want to celebrate.” A shoo-in for the Olympics squad, Kelly was injured in the penultimate game of the 2020-21 season while in the form of her life for Manchester City.
She did not play for England for 13 months and was touch and go to be in Sarina Wiegman’s squad this summer after making only five appearances for City last season.
Her celebration in a sports bra, with her shirt wheeling above her head, was instantly iconic and spoke to a release after a gruelling journey back to fitness.
In Pictures | Women’s Euro 2022 Final: England fans celebrate historic victory
“I just went mental,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to do! But I think it was an amazing celebration. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t plan it. It was alright wasn’t it?”
For Kelly, there was also something extra special about the moment coming at Wembley. As a teenager, she used to get the 92 bus to the national stadium just to buy a matchday programme for FA Cup Finals and other big occasions, and she was there to witness her beloved QPR win the 2014 play-off final through Bobby Zamora’s last-minute winner.
“I was here on crutches that day watching Bobby Zamora score,” said Kelly, who fulfilled her post-match media duties draped in the QPR flag. “I said to my family this morning, ‘There’s going to be a Bobby Zamora moment today’, and there was! Unbelievable. Come on you ‘Rs!”