As a child growing up in Ealing, west London, Chloe Kelly would catch a number 92 bus to Wembley on FA Cup final day to buy a matchday programme and feel the “vibe” around the stadium.
On Sunday evening she sent that same stadium into raptures with the winning goal in the Euro 2022 final against Germany, just four months after returning to action from injury.
No wonder then that, in her own words, Kelly “just went mental” in celebration, pausing briefly to make sure the goal had been given before wheeling away and pulling off her shirt, twirling it above her head in frenzied delight.
Her initial post-match interview was equally entertaining, the 24-year-old managing 23 words before running off, microphone still in hand, to join in with the chorus of Sweet Caroline reverberating around the stands.
But on her return Kelly was quick to thank all the people behind her moment in history, starting with those involved in her rehab following the ruptured anterior cruciate ligament sustained in May last year.
It was a crushing blow which ruled Kelly out of the Olympics and she could not bear to watch her team-mates compete in Tokyo before beginning the long road to recovery.
After 11 months out, Kelly returned action on April 2 and had just six weeks to convince England head coach Sarina Wiegman that she was worth a place in her provisional Euro 2022 squad.
'I was there in the dark days'
“When the squad was announced, Chloe was the first one I wanted to see to congratulate,” said former Manchester City team-mate Lucy Bronze.
“Because I was there in the dark days, when we were both on the bike, almost in tears, sweating, struggling, watching the other girls go and play, play for England, play at Wembley. We were missing out on so many games.
“Obviously I came back a lot sooner than her, and got my place back in the team but I knew for Chloe, she had a mountain to climb and I stood by her side and watched her climb that mountain.”
Kelly’s determination to get back to fitness in time for the European Championship came as no surprise to those who knew her background, the youngest of seven whose five older brothers took their little sister to play football in cages in inner-city London.
“I had to hold my own (with) the physicality and (work on) the creative side, because you have to get that yard on someone,” Kelly recalled. “I loved it and I think I have carried that throughout my career.”
Kelly joined childhood club Queens Park Rangers before switching to Arsenal’s centre of excellence. That required a two-hour round trip by train and Kelly would often not get home until 11pm, with school waiting the following day.
After two loan spells with Everton, Kelly made a permanent move to the Merseyside club and was top scorer in the 2019-2020 season with nine goals in 12 games, form which prompted a move to Manchester City in July 2020.
It was in the penultimate game of the 2020-21 season that Kelly suffered the ACL injury which threatened to keep her out of Euro 2022, but nothing was going to stand in the way of her “Bobby Zamora” moment.
As a 16-year-old QPR fan, Kelly was at Wembley to see Zamora score a late winner in the 2014 Championship play-off final against Derby County.
On Sunday evening it was her turn to produce an unforgettable Wembley moment of her own.
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