When Steve Banks agreed to help out Shelley Kerr with the goalkeeper coaching duties at Lowland League Stirling University, neither could have guessed it would lead to a World Cup. Yet the 47-year-old Londoner is in France with Kerr and Andy Thomson, the third member of the Stirling triumvirate, and loving every minute.
Banks, who uniquely won Scottish Cup medals with Hearts, Dundee United and St Johnstone while sitting on the bench for all three finals, was approached by Kerr when working at the Perth club. They, too, trained on the Stirling campus.
“She asked if I’d be interested in helping out in taking her side’s goalkeepers,” he recalled. “I’d start with her at 8am, do an hour and 15 minutes, then join in with the staff and players at St Johnstone.
“When Shelley got the job at Scotland she asked again if I’d be interested in being the goalkeeper coach.”
It wasn’t initially possible as his then employers, Bradford City, wouldn’t give him the time off, but a move to Tranmere Rovers towards the end of last year opened the door. Manager Micky Mellon said it could happen if, as he did, he arranged for a replacement to cover whenever Scotland had games.
Banks is working in France with Glasgow City’s Lee Alexander, Hibernian’s Jenna Fife and Shannon Lynn of Vittsjo, who is also an ex-Hibs goalkeeper. Alexander had never been capped until Kerr replaced Anna Signeul after the Euros, but is now the No 1 and kept Scotland within touching distance of England in Nice on Sunday with some fine saves.
“Lee’s done well against England,” said Banks, who doesn’t believe there should be smaller goals in women’s football. “I thought her general game was pretty good, she’s come in for a couple of crosses amongst bodies – which they’re dangerous on, because they’ve got some tall players.
“I’ve only been working with Scotland for the last six to 12 months but I can see a progression. She’s getting more mature and having an impact within a game. We had a discussion one or two camps ago about how quicker and sharper she’s looking.”
The Scotland squad travelled from Nice to Rennes on Monday and are based at a chateau about an hour’s drive from the city for their five days in Brittany. They play their second Group D match against Japan at Roahzon Park on Friday.
The group dynamic changed on Monday night when bottom-ranked Argentina held the Japanese to a 0-0 draw. That left Scotland bottom of the group following their loss to England – but also improved their chances of finishing second.
“The Argentine team had a game plan and executed it to perfection,” Banks said. “If that was the outcome they wanted from the game – to get a point, not to concede without much possession or attack, but to keep a clean sheet – they did it perfectly.
“It’s cliched I know, but we’ve got to worry about what we do. We want to win both games, wherever that takes us – second place most probably.”
Although the World Cup is in its infancy, Banks reckons the tournament is already a winner. “There were 6.1 million people watching the game against England back home which is fantastic,” he added. “It’s a total explosion of women’s football and it’s great. It has gone absolutely ballistic in a short space of time and deservedly because the girls put an awful lot of effort in.”
l Midfielder Christie Murray, who started against England, has a knee injury and that will continue to be assessed.