Erin Cuthbert has the ‘Scottishness’ to lead us to France says Kerr

Erin Cuthbert - 'gallus, with a winning mentality'. Picture: SNS.
Erin Cuthbert - 'gallus, with a winning mentality'. Picture: SNS.
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Shelley Kerr was at home looking after her 19-month-old daughter Christie and Erin Cuthbert wasn’t even born when Scotland made their last appearance at a World Cup.

Today, in what are expected to be hot and humid conditions in Shkoder, both are hoping events conspire to end that dismal record – albeit that it will be the women’s team, and not the men’s, who will be bound for next summer’s tournament in France.

For that to happen Scotland need to get a better result against Albania at the Loro Borici Stadium than Switzerland do in theirs away to Poland. If the outcomes of the simultaneous games are the same it is the top seeds who will go through, but they appear to have the tougher assignment against the 
physically powerful Poles.

Cuthbert, pictured, didn’t enter the world until 26 days after Scotland’s last match in a World Cup, a 3-0 defeat by Morocco in Saint-Etienne on 23 June, 1998.

Although that makes her only 20, she has become an increasingly influential figure for Scotland in this qualifying campaign and is the top scorer with four goals.

Although small in stature she is huge in attitude and passion. The Chelsea player is also versatile and has been deployed as the lone striker by Kerr in the last two qualifiers, but is equally at home as a holding midfielder or No 10. Above all she is a throwback to what the great Scottish footballers used to be.

“We were talking about her the other night,” the Scotland head coach mused. “For all Erin’s attributes and the abundant talent, the one thing she’s got that we’ve probably missed is that Scottishness. We’ve been missing it across all our teams – male and female – for some time.

“We go on about countries having a philosophy, and we’ve got that, but you have to remember your own culture and values. She is gallus, she’s got a winning mentality, she’s physical and she’s got that sheer Scottish passion that maybe hasn’t been apparent.”

Although Cuthbert remembers her Scotland debut – as a second-half substitute against Belarus two years ago – with fondness, her display against Switzerland demonstrated all the virtues which have enthused Kerr. It also encouraged team-mates, including Manchester City midfielder Caroline Weir, to take a more aggressive approach to the must-win game, something her head coach noted 
appreciatively.

With Arsenal captain Kim Little now back to near her best following an ACL injury, Kerr is spoiled for choice in the attacking positions – so much so that Jane Ross, who is the top scorer in the squad with 56 goals from 118 games, hasn’t started either of the last two qualifiers.

“It has been really tough,” Kerr said of the decision to drop her striker down to the bench. “We’ve had a chat with Jane. She’s been a brilliant player for us and still will be.

“We just felt that with the teams we’ve played we needed something a wee bit different for the last two games. She came on against Poland and got us a goal.”

Kerr remains convinced that the Poles can upset Switzerland today. “There’s always a spanner in the works in these situations,” she pointed out. “I’m just a bit surprised Poland haven’t taken more points in the group because the spine of their team is 
fantastic.”