SHELLEY KERR has named an almost entirely unchanged squad for Scotland’s friendly double-header later this month. The national team take on Norway and Russia in Spain in a couple of weeks time, with the only change to the squad being that Rachael Small of Hibs replaces her teammate Lucy Graham.

Kerr admits to being delighted about the strength of the squad, although two mainstays of the team – Kim Little and Lizzie Arnot – remain absent as they continue to recover from cruciate injuries.

The former Arsenal Ladies manager has been in charge of the national team for just over six months and while there is, she says, quite a way to go before the team is where she wants it to be, she is feeling hugely positive about the direction the squad is going in. “The squad is still a work in progress,” she said.

“Anna (Signeul) did an amazing job in her twelve years and with that comes the transitional period where you want to develop a new style of play. We’ve been renowned for being a tough team to beat but now we want to get to the next level by playing attractive football with more freedom. That has maybe eluded us in the past.”

This month’s friendly matches come ahead of the team’s next two World Cup qualifying matches against Switzerland and Poland in April. And with Scotland having claimed the maximum six points from their first two matches of the qualifying campaign against Belarus and Albania, Kerr is keen to continue the momentum.

There is much talk within elite sport about the process being more important than the outcome and while Kerr is keen to use these friendly matches to try out tactics and styles of play that may come in useful once the World Cup qualifying campaign kicks off again, she is also aware as to the importance of instilling a winning mentality in her players whether that be in friendlies or at training.

“The first thing we’re focusing on is performance but when you play at the highest level, you want to win,” she said. “If we can see elements of things we are trying to implement on the training pitch in the games then we will be happy but to create that culture and winning habit, we want to maintain that winning momentum. We came in off the back of three wins and we want to continue that but first and foremost it is about the performance. But I like to hear the players talking about winning at training. At the top end, small margins make a difference and you have to have that inner belief.”

2018 marks the twenty year anniversary of a Scottish football team – male or female – qualifying for a World Cup and no one is more aware than Kerr of the desperation of the nation to see that dire run halted.

But with world number 17s Switzerland in Scotland’s qualifying group and in great form, Kerr is under no illusions as to quite how tough it will be for her team to make it out of their section. “It is a long time (since we last qualified for a World Cup) and it is very, very difficult,” she said. “It will be tough with only one team from each group qualifying automatically however, we have got off to a good start and we have the players who, if we get things right, can cause the other teams like Switzerland and Poland problems.

“Switzerland have players playing for Frankfurt, Chelsea, Potsdam - they have top, top players. If we are to have any chance of doing well in our group then we have to be at our best and you can only be at your very best when you meet those standards constantly at training and when you have the opportunity to play good players and good teams and learn from that.

“In terms of our preparation, that’s where I think we are. We’re up against Norway and Russia and then we will be playing New Zealand in a double header so we have a great opportunity for us to bolster our preparation in the next few months.”