· Shelley Kerr became Scotland coach after the Women’s EURO
· She had been the first woman in the UK to coach a senior men’s team
· Kerr keen to change the team’s style and lead them to a first Women’s World Cup
As Scotland’s men’s team continue their hunt for a new manager, the female side must be a source of some envy.
Those seeking a successor to Gordon Strachan will also be envious that the Scots women had such a natural and formidable successor to turn to. Shelley Kerr, a former Arsenal coach who spent two decades playing for the national team, captained the side and managed the Scots’ U-19s, seemed tailor-made for the position.
Besides her pedigree in the female game, Kerr had also made headlines – and history – in 2014 by becoming the first woman in the UK to take charge of a senior men’s team. Given this trailblazing role, and the successes she had enjoyed, some even wondered if Kerr might be torn over whether to return to the female game. Not so, according to the woman herself.
“I didn’t hesitate for a second,” she told FIFA.com. “I really enjoyed working in the men’s game but when Scotland came calling, it was a no-brainer. To be asked to become the national team’s manager is an incredible honour. It really is a dream come true.
“It’s also a fantastic time to be taking this job because the foundations are there to build on and everyone is feeling good about the team after such a strong finish at the EURO. I’m really excited about what lies ahead, and this is a role I’m extremely passionate about.”
That passion should come as no surprise. After all, Kerr is not only a patriot, but a parent, and sees in daughter Christie’s football experiences that continued progress cannot be taken for granted.
“What I’ve seen is that we have come a very long way,” said the Scotland boss. “When I was growing up, there was no such thing as girls’ football. To play, you had to fight to play with boys teams – and that’s what I did.
“But although the opportunities for girls who want to play the game are so much better, we still have a way to go. And as the national team, we have a duty to lead that effort and to inspire the next generation.”
Kerr also wants to excite as well as inspire, and is unequivocal about her desire to develop Scotland’s playing style from the solid framework Signeul established.
“It’s a long-term strategy but we are looking to change the way the team plays,” she said. “That will take time and hard work on the pitch but I want to see the players expressing themselves. Sport is entertainment and that’s what we want to do as a team – entertain.”
Ensuring that the recent UEFA Women’s EURO is not just the team’s first major tournament, but the first of many, is another key target. Kerr’s Scotland have made a positive start in that respect, kicking off their FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign earlier this month with back-to-back wins over Belarus and Albania.
Their next fixture, though, takes them to Group B’s top seeds, Switzerland, and Kerr believes that the section could prove to more unpredictable that many expect.
“I’ve said all along that I don’t see it as a straight fight between us and the Swiss. Women’s international football is becoming so much more difficult and almost every team now is tactically very well organised.
“Although we’re going in very positive about our chances, it is worth remembering that only one team qualifies and that we’re the team from the second pot. So no-one should be getting over-confident.
“I’m looking forward to it all, though. The squad performed very well at the EURO and there are very important players coming back from injury, like Kim Little and Jennifer Beattie, who missed that tournament altogether. We also have also some exciting young players coming through.
“The depth of the talent is good and, for me as manager, it’s just about getting the right mix. I'm well aware that I'm in a very privileged position in this job and I plan on making as big a difference as I possibly can."