“If I've played a small part in that, it will make me smile forever.”
Shelley Kerr has certainly played more than a small part in growing women’s football in Scotland.
A 20-year playing career, which saw her win every major club honour in Scotland. The first female manager in British men's senior football. The head coach that took Scotland’s Women to their first World Cup. And an MBE in 2019.
There’s no doubting that Scotland have come a long way under Kerr, who says her biggest pride is seeing the growth in interest and support.
“Before we went to the World Cup, there were 18,500 people at Hampden Park to watch the national women's team. For me that supersedes anything,” Kerr told Sue Anstiss MBE on The Game Changers, a podcast showcasing the incredible trailblazing women in sport.
“When results don't go your way you get criticised, every manager does, but for me, I always look at the bigger picture in terms of the achievement of putting girls and women's football in Scotland on the map. And now we've got little boys to older gentlemen talking about the Scottish women's national team.
“For me that's massive because I certainly never had that when I was a kid. So if I've played a small part in that, then you know, it will make me smile forever.”
Before taking charge of Scotland – a role she still holds – Kerr was the first female manager of a men's senior team in Great Britain.
She says her position with Stirling University was about “breaking barriers” but does not necessarily think more women need to work in men’s football.
It has to be what that individual wants, not all female coaches want to work in the men's game. So it has to be what you as an individual and what you aspire to be and what you aspire to do.
“But if my experience paves a way for others then fantastic, because it can be done.
“There was such a hype around it that I'm thinking if you don't get results, then people are going to say I told you – I told you it wouldn't work. So that's why it was really important for me to hit the ground running.
“Thankfully the team at the time I took over, I think they would almost bottom of the league so the only way was up. So it was quite a good impact, but joking aside we drew our first game. I think we won the second game and we went on our little bit of a run. So that got buy-in from other coaches, from others around me, from the players, and people externally.”
Kerr won 59 caps for Scotland, captaining her country on multiple occasions. Her first appearance came in 1989 and her last in 2008, having taken around nine years away from the game after giving birth to her daughter.
“It kind of makes me chuckle now when people say ‘ah you're lucky to be in the position you're in’, but I think a lot of people forget your journey and your own personal journey and all the things that you try and develop within yourself,” she says.
“But I was combining full-time employment as well as obviously having my daughter. And I just felt it was right to devote time to my family and my career without football.
It was funny how I got back involved, I never lost my passion for it, but I played in a charity game at my work. And it was at that moment, I realised how much I missed it
“I'm an all or nothing person. So I spent the next year getting myself really fit and back playing consistently, and back playing well. And I got some interest from the national team coach of the team who was Vera Pauw and then I got invited to a Scotland training day and then, yeah, I never looked back after that. I got back in the national side after eight, nine years old, which was quite incredible.
“I've got 59 in total and it’s something that I'm really proud of because I was 39 when I got my last cup. So I played international football till I was 39, which is a massive achievement and something I have to say probably a lot of thanks goes to a lot of other people because my family looked after my daughter and all the times I was away that was really tough.
“I had to factor in that a lot of milestones I missed out on time with my daughter to put into my career. And I think, now there's so much more support for mums in football and for players, if they want to have a family and come back, there's so many support mechanisms now.”
Reflecting on her MBE, which was awarded for services to women's football, she said: “I think the award is an individual one, it's not really, because it's so many people that have been instrumental and helping me help football.
“And it's been a long, hard journey, but it was so special to see my mum at Buckingham Palace and my daughter as well. That was just the most amazing thing, take everything else away it's just such an amazing feeling and I'm sure many people that have done similar, it's all about other people and it was, it was such a special day just seeing my Mum's face.
“It was absolutely amazing. But again, so many other people have been instrumental in that. And I don't really see it as my award. I see it for other people. I see it for the girls and the women's game.”
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You can find out more about all 41 guests from this and previous series at fearlesswomen.co.uk/thegamechangers