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First Lady of men's game can succeed

Eddie Wolecki Black, the Glasgow City head coach, is confident that Shelley Kerr will make a success of managing Stirling University in the Lowland League, having travelled in the opposite direction himself.

Speaking ahead of today's Uefa Women's Champions League last-32 draw in Nyon, Wolecki Black said: "It's a challenging situation for ­Shelley, no doubt about it, but I'm delighted for her. I've always been a believer that the best person should get the job regardless of other circumstances."

Wolecki Black, who is a close friend of Kerr, the former Arsenal Ladies and Scotland Under-19 coach, had been the manager of Lochee United and Montrose before joining City in 2009. He has established the Glasgow side as the dominant force in Scotland, winning numerous domestic titles and qualifying regularly for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

"There was always going to be a men's club which would take a gamble with a female at some stage and, for me, Shelley is the best qualified in this country to do it," Wolecki Black said. "I think it's a fantastic move for her and I really believe she will make the transition to the men's game very well.

"First and foremost, she will have to win the respect of the dressing room. If the manager doesn't know what he or she is talking about, the players will suss it out in two minutes. On that point, I don't think Shelley will have any problems; the players will be impressed with her knowledge of the game.

"What might be more challenging is that it is a different dressing room completely. In the women's game, there are certain words you can't use. In a men's dressing room, it almost adds truth to what you are saying to use these words because it gives what you are saying more emphasis."

Wolecki Black believes Stirling University is the best club for the first female coach in British senior football to make her mark. "If any males are going to give a female a chance you would think it would be students," he said. "It's a learning, developmental environment and is less likely to have the usual prejudices."

There are, nevertheless, certain practical difficulties which have to be overcome. Wolecki Black acknowledged that he quickly established the ground rules for when he could, and could not, enter the Glasgow City dressing room. "I have the opposite situation to what Shelley will face," he said. "I go into the dressing room and, when it's time for the players to get changed I tell them I will be back in 10 or 15 minutes or whatever. The girls know I will be back at exactly the time I give them; if they are not ready it is their problem, not mine."

The City coach accepted there might be more scope for "misunderstandings" in the Stirling University dressing room."Shelley is a mother, so nothing is going to phase her in terms of the male body," he added. "If there are any pranks she will easily deal with them."

If, even at Stirling, a player cannot accept a female coach, Wolecki Black believes Kerr should persevere rather than get rid of him. "If she is going to continue in the men's game she will find that opinion in more or less every place she goes, and you can't just get rid of the players all the time," he said. "All you can do is try to win those players over with the work you do on the training park and get a winning team on the pitch. Once a game starts, players forget who is in the dug-out.

"Shelley has actually been doing paid analysis for a number of men's teams. Whether players at the teams concerned know it or not, their managers have been setting them up on the basis of what Shelley has discovered at matches.

"All that said, a lot of people I know in the men's game won't like her appointment. She has to ignore all that stuff and not listen to phone-ins or look at social media. It's about Shelley winning the players over and I'm convinced she'll do that."

City are among the seeded teams for today's Champions League last-32 and last-16 draws. "It's great for the club because we'll avoid the big guns in the last 32," said Wolecki Black.

One club City definitely want to avoid is Liverpool. The English ­champions are making their first appearance in the Champions League and are unseeded.

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