By Ben Kearney
Those final moments in the Parc des Princes that saw the women’s national team crash out of the FIFA World Cup after being three goals up, the after-match debrief that turned into a national scandal. It’s certainly not been straightforward.
These memories are hard to forget, however, the progress made since Shelley Kerr took charge of the Scotland women’s national team has been nothing short of remarkable.
As she celebrates her 50th birthday today, her career so far has seen her achieve an incredible amount. As a player, she was a no-nonsense defender. She was capped over 50 times for Scotland and was a mainstay in the backline. When her playing days came to an end, she began working up the coaching ladder. She worked for the Scottish FA before moving to Arsenal Ladies where she won the Women’s FA Cup amongst other honours.
Then her biggest move came. Arsenal to Stirling Univesity seems a bit of a drop-off, but this was a unique change of role. She became the first female manager of a men’s senior side in Britain at the time. It set her up as someone who would go far in management.
When she was announced as the new head coach of Scotland in April 2017, the departing Anna Signeul had been a champion for the women’s game. The team were on the eve of heading to the UEFA Women’s Euro Championships for the first time. It would have been easy to think this was as good as it would get.
Fast forward to now.
Over 6,000 fans attended the last qualifier at Easter Road, this is real progress. If you mentioned a figure like that ten years ago for a women’s match in Scotland you would have been laughed at.
Shelley has taken criticism for her tough attitude after the finals, the meeting with the players after the Argentina match ended in tears. The truth is it had to be done – we want to get better and be within the grasps of elite sides. She has made it clear this type of defeat will not happen again.
The football being played is attacking and fast-paced, the players have bought into her approach.
Her coaching style is fresh and modern, the UEFA Pro Licence puts her at the forefront of the game. When she speaks to the media, she is calm and collected. The knowledge she possesses of the game is impeccable.
The domestic game will continue to improve under her leadership. Hibs Ladies duo Jamie-Lee Napier and Amy Muir being called into the last squad was a move that shocked most. Their performances in the SWPL have been excellent but at 19-years-old each, they were clearly untested at such a high level. This is a sign of things to come. In the last squad, nine players involved play their club football here, this can only be good.
Women’s football in Scotland has still got a long way to go, but with people like Shelley leading the game, we will get there.