New Scotland coach Shelley Kerr opens door to fringe players

The training headquarters of the Hungarian Football Federation outside Budapest will be the setting for Shelley Kerr's long-awaited first match as Scotland women's head coach this evening. The venue also provides Kerr with her only 90 minutes of football before World Cup qualifying gets underway next month.

Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr, right, with new captain Rachel Corsie. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

The sense of a fresh start is, understandably, all too obvious despite the fading grandeur of the team hotel in the Hungarian capital. Very few survivors remain from Anna Signeul’s backroom staff, while players accustomed to routinely being selected by the Swede know circumstances have changed under Kerr and her assistant, Andy Thomson.

There is also now a real opportunity for those who previously felt they were being overlooked. Kerr, who will start the game with a 4-2-3-1 formation, has promised to take a closer look at previously fringe candidates.

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“First and foremost we want to win this game, even although it’s a friendly,” she said. “After that it’s a two-pronged attack. We want to look ahead to the World Cup qualification, but equally we want to try out some players who haven’t had the opportunity before.”

One of these could be Glasgow City goalkeeper Lee Alexander. Although she has plenty of Champions League experience, the 25-year-old remains uncapped and, indeed, was only brought into the squad for the Cyprus Cup in March. She kept her place through to the Euros, but was never once given game time.

With Gemma Fay, who was the first-choice goalkeeper for 19 years, having retired with 203 caps following the Netherlands tournament, finding her replacement is one of Kerr’s most pressing priorities. Fay’s long-term deputy Shannon Lynn is one candidate, as are Alexander and the third keeper in Hungary, Celtic’s Megan Cunningham.

The Scottish FA’s head of goalkeeping, Fraser Stewart, is working with all three in Budapest and Kerr said: “We have a train of thought. It has been great for Fraser to come in with no preconceived ideas about the goalkeepers. They have responded well to him in training.” Just about the only player certain of her place against Hungary, who are ranked 17 places below Scotland (22) in the Fifa rankings, is new captain, Rachel Corsie. She will also be restored to her preferred position of central defender, having been deployed as a holding midfielder for much of the last two years.

Hibs vice-captain Rachael Small has been restored to the squad for the first time in over four years. She plays as an attacking midfielder for her club, but Kerr may see her as a full-back option as she previously occupied that position for Scotland. With six substitutes permitted there will be plenty of opportunities to stake claims and another hopeful of game time will be new Manchester City signing Claire Emslie. As a former prolific striker himself, one of Thomson’s priorities as Kerr’s assistant is to improve the range of Scotland’s attacking play – and former Hibs forward Emslie provides pace and an eye for goal.