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EDITION 24 - DECEMBER 2008
The Long Goodbye
At 39, Scotland's Shelley Kerr is retiring from international football - and we're going to miss her...

Whether Shelley Kerr bowed out of international football at the zenith or the nadir is a matter of perspective.

True, more than a month on, the scene of her 58th and final cap in Nalchik, Russia, still nags at her.

A 2-1 win over Russia away from home is a considerable feat in any sport but it was a result that put Scotland out of the European Championship.

Scotland lost their play-off on away goals after an agonising 3-2 first leg defeat at Tynecastle several days earlier. She still can’t get it out of her head.

Yet, with time to reflect, Kerr can take satisfaction on how far the national team have come in recent years.

At the age of 39, she feels she is leaving it in good hands with emerging players like Kim Little and Jennifer Beattie staking their claims.

“It still hurts to look back on it but we lost really bad goals in the first leg and that ended up costing us,” she recalls.

“I always felt we could go there and beat them as there is not much between the teams now.

“But that’s a measure of the progress we have made in the last two years. We played Russia three years ago and lost ten goals in two games without scoring but now we are able to match them.

“As far as fitness is concerned, there’s nothing between the teams and that says a lot for the Scottish players who are all holding down full-time jobs.

“This was as close as we have ever come to reaching a major finals and I really now think we’re not too far away.

“What would it take to get over that final hurdle? All I feel is that it’s now just a case of luck and getting the breaks at the right time.

“It would also help if we could get the girls on a semi-professional footing as we are at a disadvantage compared to most countries we now come up against.”

A new World Cup qualifying campaign begins next year and – although Kerr will not be involved this time – she will be keeping close tabs on the team’s progress.

“We have some good young players coming through now and there is a lot of good work being done in the clubs,” she continues.

“Ifeoma Dieke is going to be playing in the new professional league which starts in America in the spring and players like Kim Little and Jennifer Beattie are not squad players any more but are part of the team.

“It felt the girls really grew as a team during that last qualifying campaign and it will stand us in good stead the next time.

“We’ll be knocking on the door again. If you look at the European Championships, Denmark and Ukraine are also there and we had close matches with them and I honestly think Russia will surprise a few people.

“I’m not sure if I’ll be able to watch the finals, knowing how close we came and I still have the feeling that we should be there.

“But I wouldn’t have been involved in any case as I’d taken the decision that the game in Russia was going to be my last for the national side whether we qualified or not.

“I’ll still dip in and dip out at Spartans but you find that the recovery is harder when you get to my age.

“The national team players train every day and there is a lot of commitment involved and I just feel it was my time to go.”

RM
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