SHELLEY Kerr has stepped down as Scotland Women’s head coach to allow her successor time to prepare for the World Cup qualifying campaign.

The decision has been reached following talks with the Scottish Football Association after defeat by Finland earlier this month ended hopes of reaching the Euro 2021 finals.

Kerr said: “I know the timing is right for me to look ahead to the next chapter, to face new challenges and to create and enjoy more amazing experiences on my journey.”

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell added: “This UEFA Euro qualifying campaign ended sooner than we anticipated and we both felt it was the right time for the national team to regroup in time for the World Cup qualifiers, and for Shelley to fulfil her career ambitions with a fresh challenge.”

Kerr took charge in August 2017 and led Scotland to their first World Cup finals. But the group campaign ended in heartache as her team let slip a 3-0 lead in the final 20 minutes against Argentina, who levelled in the closing moments after a retaken penalty to eliminate the Scots.

A post-tournament analysis ended in acrimony but Scotland regrouped with Kerr in charge ahead of the European qualifiers and they scored 16 goals in their first three games.

However, they then suffered three consecutive 1-0 defeats and the final moments of Kerr’s reign on the field were similar in drama to the way her World Cup campaign ended.

After putting Finland, managed by Kerr’s predecessor Anna Signeul, under intense pressure at Tynecastle, the visitors raced away in the dying seconds and netted after a saved shot rebounded off a striker’s face and landed in the net.

Kerr said: “Naturally, I am deeply disappointed that we failed to qualify in our recent UEFA Euro qualifying campaign.

“There were huge expectations surrounding the whole team, based on our recent successes, but I couldn’t be prouder than to have led the team – as well as the team behind the team – to the Women’s World Cup.

“I thank the Scottish FA and all who supported me in fulfilling my dream of leading our country to the World Cup finals for the first time. I am privileged to have played a part in such an historical moment in Scottish football. That is something that will live with me forever.

“I have lived and breathed the sport for as long as I can remember, so I know in my heart that the time is right for a new head coach to take the team forward to the next campaign.

“I dedicated almost four years to the role as national coach. Having spent my life in football and worked at every level of the pathway, it has been the pinnacle to date to get the opportunity to work with such a fantastic squad of players.

“At the start, we set out to inspire the nation by implementing a style of football that was both exciting and entertaining – and I believe we achieved that.

“I would like to thank the players and support staff who have given their time, expertise and professionalism in the overarching quest to play on a European and world stage. It’s a huge testament to the squad of 40 players who have been instrumental in raising the profile of girls’ and women’s football in Scotland. I know they will continue to inspire the next generation.”

Maxwell added: “Shelley’s impact on the Scotland Women’s National Team cannot be underestimated. We are thankful for her contribution in leading the team to historic success in qualifying for the Women’s World Cup, and for the dedication and commitment to advancing the women’s game at all levels.”