Shelley Kerr knows she can’t wrap her players in cotton wool in the build-up to the nation’s first ever appearance at a World Cup but she will do everything she can to ensure she has the pick of her biggest stars when they head to France in June.
The Scotland national boss is well aware of the ill-fortune that blighted her predecessor on the way to the Scots’ maiden major finals, Euro 2017, with key performers such as Kim Little, Lizzie Arnot, Jennifer Beattie and Emma Mitchell all sidelined with injury.
Kerr says it has played a part in the decision-making process during squad selections en route to this summer’s footballing jamboree.
“There were some real big injuries to some big players [back then]. It can happen in football, and any sport. But our medical team and coaching staff have been very mindful of that all the way through the qualifying campaign and the friendly games. We haven’t taken any risks. At the Algarve Cup, where there was one day between the Iceland and Denmark games, we only started one player in both games [Leanne Crichton] and that was because she didn’t play in the first game against Canada.
“It’s always at the forefront of our minds that the players are a priority. So far I think we’ve managed them well. We’ve never taken an injured player into camp, or one where there is any doubt whatsoever. We’ll continue to work like that because it has been successful for us.
“But can I control what happens at a club? No. Can I control if someone rolls their ankle over when out walking the dog? No. What I do know as a coach, and I’ve always been like this, I won’t stress myself over it. It is what it is, and injuries are part of football.”
She says the players are also being as sensible as possible in striving to ensure their bodies are in peak conditions to see them through the remainder of the build up and allow them to withstand the rigours of elite tournament football.
Playing the recent Algarve Cup helped with that, according to Kerr. With a narrow defeat to fifth ranked Canada and then wins over Iceland and Denmark, she walked away from that event with even greater trust and confidence in her squad.
“The team are getting better and better and to make the changes we need from game to game was a big thing for us. It was a bit unique that there wasn’t a lot of rest between the games so we had to be mindful of that and manage the players. That is huge going into a big tournament.”
With just three warm-up games between the Scots and the World Cup finals, they face Chile and Brazil next month and then Jamaica at Hampden in May. Kerr describes the South American tests as “different” and “exciting”. “One thing I have been pleased about is the programme of games we have taken. There is a rationale behind everything we do. They are South American and Brazil are ranked tenth, while there are only a couple of places between Chile and Argentina [who Scotland face in the World Cup group stages]. I want to take on teams that challenge us. That is how you improve and if you don’t then when you go to big tournaments you aren’t going to be able to compete.”