Former SFA director of coaching Jim Fleeting recalls Scotland boss Shelley Kerr could hold her own in any company

© Pascal Le Segretain - FIFA/FIFA via Getty ImagesScotland coach Shelley Kerr
Scotland coach Shelley Kerr

Jim Fleeting helped mould some of the world’s top coaches as head of the SFA’s renowned coach education set-up.

Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello, Andre Villas-Boas and Nuno Espirito Santo are just a few of the graduates.

Shelley Kerr is another.

Ask Fleeting about the manager of the Scotland women’s team, and his response says everything about the high regard in which she is held by those in the know.

“She’s great. On the field she’s as good as anyone,” says Fleeting.

“Players take it from her because, on the one hand, she’s got a very loving way of getting things done.

“But see when it’s not done right, she will take that opportunity to say, ‘Come on guys, let’s go. Let’s sort it out.’ She’s very good that way.”

Mastery of when to employ the arm round the shoulder and the rocket up the backside is essential for any coach.

As a player, Kerr was a no-nonsense centre-half. As a coach, she’s a meticulously-detailed technician, whose teams are committed to playing easy-on-the-eye, ball-on-the-deck football.

She did her first coaching course in 1989 when she was just turning 20.

For Fleeting, who has seen all manner of personalities honing their coaching skills in Largs, Kerr’s suitability for gafferhood was immediately apparent, and won over the seasoned male professionals around her.

“She flew through the coaching courses, she really did,” he continued. “She also picked up a bit from the people around about her.

“Usually at these courses, guys tend to go with their own pals, whether they’re male or female.

“But in this case, Shelley was just one of the boys, really, and it was very good for them all.

“For a young female to go into a group like that – or for any youngster for that matter – is very difficult.

“But Shelley just came in and started mixing and that was that. There was no question. She was part of the group.

“Later, she was very fortunate to be in a group with people who had blessed the game in England.

“We had Davie Weir, Scot Gemmill, Alan Stubbs and David Unsworth on a course with Shelley.

“They were fantastic with her, and her with them.

“There were people there Shelley could turn to. Anything she needed or wished, they were there and it was great to see.

“Truthfully, people like me look up to her and think, ‘It’s great to have her around our business.’”

Jim Fleeting casts an eye over a training session

The contrast between Kerr’s physical approach as a player and her patient coaching philosophy couldn’t be greater.

Fleeting’s daughter, Julie, a former Scottish international striker, could testify to that, having faced off against her directly during their respective playing days.

But he believes the talent at Kerr’s disposal today has been a major factor in how her Scotland team has gone about its business in qualifying for France.

“Shelley was a gorilla as a player!” joked Fleeting.

“I remember her playing against my daughter down south, when Julie was at Arsenal and Shelley was at Doncaster Belles.

“But you can see from her Scotland team, they want to get the ball down, keep possession and strike when they have the opportunity to do so.

“It helps that they have three really, really talented girls in the team just now.

“There’s Kim Little, who has been about for a number of years and has been all over the world.

“But I’ve no doubt Kim will be looking at girls like Caroline Weir and Erin Cuthbert now, and thinking, ‘They’re catching up with me.’”

Kerr has already “caught up” with her male contemporaries in that she has managed a men’s senior team, in Lowland League outfit, Stirling University.

She was the first woman to do so in Scotland.

Whether post-national team she will return to the men’s game remains to be seen.

But if that’s a path Kerr decides to follow, Fleeting hopes to see her given a fair shake by club chairman and chief executives.

“Shelley should be judged on what Shelley does, nothing else,” he said. “That’s the way she wants it.

“She’s in among them all and she wants to be judged like anyone else.

“Getting the Stirling Uni job was great for her CV. She’s with Scotland now, and that looks pretty good on a CV, too.

“Shelley will set her own goals. But she’s as keen as mustard, that’s for sure.”