Scotland Women head coach Shelley Kerr admits that the scale of her side’s achievement in qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is yet to fully hit her, following the team’s return to Scotland yesterday.
A famous 2-1 victory over Albania, coupled with Switzerland failing to beat Poland, saw them become the first-ever Scotland Women’s National Team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup, as well as the first Scotland senior side to do so since 1998.
The result saw the team make headlines across the country with congratulatory messages pouring in from all quarters, including from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Scotland now await the pool draw on 8 December, which will see the team find out the opponents they will face next summer in France.
Shelley, after having some time to settle after a manic evening in Albania, what are your reflections on the team’s achievement?
It’s still a bit surreal at this moment in time. It’s going to take a wee bit of time, certainly for me personally, for this to sink in. This campaign has been a real success – the players have been phenomenal throughout, they’ve developed resilience I haven’t seen from them before and they’ve coped with many different challenges along the way. I’m extremely proud of them.
It’s not just the players that have played their part either – we have a fantastic group of staff with us too. In particular, my assistant Andy Thomson has been tremendous. This has been his first experience of women’s football and he’s added so much value to the women’s team. I’ve really enjoyed working with him.
Your first game in charge was just less than a year ago – did you ever envisage you’d be at this point?
It’s been 13 games so far and we’ve only lost two, which is a massive achievement for the players. They’ve grown and matured over time – we’ve installed a real confidence and ‘never-say-die’ attitude within the team. We’ve been losing games and come back to win them, and they’ve done really well coping with different challenges that they’ve had to face.
If you look back to a year ago after the Euros in terms of the work we felt the team needed, we’ve done that much quicker than we’d potentially thought.
How much does it mean to you to go to a FIFA World Cup?
Myself and Andy (Thomson, assistant coach) were chatting on the way home, and as a player I was fortunate to captain my country. To lead them to a FIFA World Cup for the first time ever though – like I said, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.
It’s never about me as head coach though – it’s about the players and everyone driving the women’s game forward in Scotland. We’ve had brilliant support from the Scottish FA, the clubs that develop the players and the SWF and sportscotland, who play a key role in preparing the players.
Having had the experience at UEFA Euro 2017, how much do you think that experience will prepare the players for what is to come?
I think that the players themselves will tell you that being at the Euros gave them a taste for being at a major finals. We spoke about it after that tournament and they were disappointed with how it went for them.
The FIFA World Cup is a different level again though, because it’s so difficult to qualify for. We play against teams that we might not otherwise get a chance to face. The players are ecstatic, and so they should be – they’re a fantastic team, but more importantly a fantastic group of people.
ICYMI— Shelley Kerr (@Kerr5Shelley) 4 September 2018
The #SWNT are going to the World Cup🏴⚽️
Thanks to our small country for all your support...we are extremely grateful.
Huge thanks to the staff, but more so to the players. You have inspired the nation🏴 https://t.co/AxsyPxQJqP
What will this do for the women’s game in Scotland?
I think this will be massive not just for women’s football, but football in general in Scotland. For us to qualify for a FIFA World Cup, hopefully people can now see the good work that gets done within Scottish football.
We always set out to entertain and to inspire a nation, and hopefully we’ve done that.