Interview: Shelley Kerr (Scotland U-19 Head Coach)
After Scotland qualified for the UEFA U-19 Championship Finals as best runners-up, Head Coach Shelley Kerr spoke to us about the squad's development and the challenge ahead.
How long have you been with the squad?
I've been working with the squad for just over a year and I've seen a massive improvement in development. With a pathway in place, we have now started academies and out of the current squad, there's 14 players that are involved in this programme. I think that it has definetly been of benefit, as they're playing more at the clubs but also we're giving them an opportunity to combine studies with football. We're not in a position to have players on special contracts but the next best thing is studying, along with expertise in all fields. The girls at the national academy are training four times a week and I really do think that it is the way forward.
How does your talent identification work?
We have a system in place for six regions that have an elite pathway, where we identify our most talented players. That's done on a scouting basis, through the clubs and trials. We indentify the most talented players within the region and have sessions on a weekly basis throughout the year. They're getting a game and added expertise, in addition to their club training.
Does any one club provide most players?
We're in a transitional period, where we're changing our season and certainly since the national team coaches came in. Anna Signeul, Sheila Begbie (Head of Girls & Women's Football) and Helen Grahm (National Development Officer) have all worked very hard and very closely with the clubs, trying to develop the club structure and that's again a massive first for our youth players. The clubs have to take some credit because they've put a lot of work into educating the players. Our pathway has been developed even further and that's had a knock-on effect.
Your target for the finals?
If you take into account the group that we've just come from and when you come down from 44 teams to 8, you know it's going to be really difficult, It's been a massive achievement for us and let's not underestimate this. I think the squad has grown and grown in confidence and we have proved that we can compete with some of the best teams but our expectations are that we go and perform. We're not just going there to be there, we want to do well and want to prove we can put good performances in place and I'm sure we will do that.
A beneficial experience for all?
I've been very fortunate to play for my country 59 times and I've never made it to a finals but for these players to do so at this age, is a fantastic achievement. They know that and they're really excited and focused about going and it is massive and I'm sure it'll be an enjoyable experience for them all. For Rachel Small, this will be her second finals. She's the captain, so a momentous occasion for her again.