Shelley Kerr working round the clock for Scotland’s World Cup bid

Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr. Picture: SNS
Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr. Picture: SNS
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The job of taking Scotland to their first ever World Cup is keeping manager Shelley Kerr up at night.

But it is not worry, it is simply a sign of how thorough she is in ensuring the country will be represented by the best squad possible when they head to France in the summer.

As she heads to La Manga
this week for a training camp, where the team will also play friendly games against Norway and Iceland, Kerr explained just how tricky it is keeping tabs on personnel who are plying their trade in Australia and the United States, and the difficulty in coordinating training regimes and preparing players who are all at different points in their club seasons.

“What we have to be mindful of is that players are all at different stages,” said Kerr. “We have Scottish-based players who haven’t played since November, we have players down south who have had a short break and are now about to kick off their league again this weekend and it is similar in Italy. We also have a few players who are missing. Some of them are missing through injury but we also have Rachel Corsie, our captain, who is still in Australia finishing off her season.”

Technology allows Kerr to download games and track the form of players but nothing beats watching them live, according to the manager, who is determined her stars will be as well prepared as possible for their group matches against England, Argentina and Japan and is making the most of the independent review that was carried out in the wake of the country’s appearance at the 2017 Euros and the lessons learned from that.

But while logistics, preparations, training schedules, hotels, travel and sport science all play a vital role, it will all boil down to the form of the players and their ability to shine on the biggest football stage.

Which is why she is up through the night or in front of a screen early in the morning taking in games from abroad.

“It is very, very tough. Nothing is better for the players than to see the coaching staff there live,” she said. “It is something we are going to prioritise in the coming months. Going to the World Cup, we have to give the players the best opportunity so we are out there watching them and our opponents all the time. But it has been a huge challenge to keep tabs on everyone.

“Yesterday morning I watched Rachel playing over in Australia because the game was on TV.

“That game was on at 9am but there have been times, when Rachel plays in the States for example, when it is maybe one or two o’clock in the morning and I will try to keep my eyes open to watch those games. But I think it is important that I see as many as possible. That is only fair to all the players involved.”

The training camp will allow Kerr to assess players at close quarters as they embark on a year that she knows could be a massive stepping stone in the evolution of the women’s game in Scotland. On the back of Celtic’s decision to fund a full-time women’s set-up and Hearts’ commitment to their women’s team, promising a six-figure sum year on year to help them develop, an efficacious showing when they 
take their place among the world elite in June would be a further boost.

Bestowed with awards and plaudits since they made history by qualifying courtesy of that decisive win over Albania in September, Kerr is determined to build on that positive momentum.

“This is a great opportunity for us to start the year off by playing two really, really tough opponents in Norway and Iceland. A year ago we played Norway and it was a starting point for us as we tried to bed down our philosophy and style of play and we lost 3-0 to a very, very good, efficient and effective Norwegian team, so it will be interesting to see, especially tactically, how well we have developed. We can measure ourselves against them and gauge how far we have come.

“I think it is the biggest year yet. You talk about awards and success of the national team but I haven’t enjoyed one moment of it if I’m being honest because as a manager you are always thinking ahead.

“Ok, we enjoyed the moment in Albania when we first qualified but almost the next day I was thinking: ‘What do we do now? This is where the real planning starts’. Your mind is in overdrive all the time.

“It is an exciting year for us but we’ve also increased everyone’s expectations. Having previously qualified for the Euros, now the World Cup, everyone thinks the Scottish women’s national team are going to do it on a regular basis. That’s not necessarily true. But for the here and now we’ve got a talented group of players so we have to capitalise on that.

“Success is two-fold. You’ve got the performance side of it where we want to compete and do well but then you’ve got the legacy. How do we grow the game? How do we make the game more of an attractive product in Scotland?

“That is a job for the organisation as a whole. There is no point in us having success as a national team if it doesn’t cascade down through the entire landscape of the women’s game in Scotland.”