WITHIN the next few weeks, depending on the promptness of the American Embassy processing her working visa application, Julie Fleeting will fly to San Diego to live out her own version of the American dream. From the Ayrshire coast to the Gulf of Mexico in one fell swoop.

The 21-year-old Ayr United goalgetter is the hottest property in Scottish women's football, which may well make her one of the hottest properties in Scottish football in general. Already she has racked up enough international appearances to be inducted into the Scottish Football Association's Hall of Fame, only she's not the right sex, and, as Berti Vogts continues his so far fruitless search for a prolific goalscorer, it may not be such a bad idea to make history and call her up for the next Euro Championship warm-up match.

In San Diego Spirit's salad bowl of a squad, Fleeting will be the sole Scot but after perusing her sharpshooting stats - as they all invariably do, spaghetti-

junction style, Stateside - she is being hailed as the saviour of a hitherto horrifying season in the WUSA League, the women's version of Major League Soccer which is proving every bit as popular, and even more so in some states.

At present, Spirit are distinctly dispirited, having tumbled down towards the trap door with only the New York franchise for company in the eight-team division at the half-way point. Indeed, only weeks after accepting the offer of trying her luck in the hardest league in the world, the move was plunged into uncertainty when the coach who signed her, Carlos Juarez, was sacked.

''I had been finding out about them on their website and that's where I learned that the manager I spoke to had been sacked,'' she recalls, understandably concerned at the time that the deal might off.

On the contrary, Juarez's successor was the club's general manager, Kevin Crow, who had been responsible in brokering the deal in the first place. Her fears were allayed when her father, Jim, who wound down his career in the States after spells with Norwich, Ayr United, Clyde and Morton, contacted the club for clarification.

''It was a worry because at first you do think the worst but my dad organised a conference call from America, where he was visiting by uncle Bobby, and the new manager said everything was fine and that he's already been working behind the scenes on the deal.

''Now I'm just excited at the prospect. I've been playing in Scotland for more than five years now and I think I need a new challenge.''

The last time The Herald caught up with Fleeting, she was in the middle of her final year at Edinburgh University, where she studied physical education, and had yet to decide whether her football career or professional career would take precedence. The decision was taken out of her hands after receiving an offer she could not refuse to turn semi-professional.

''They phoned me just after I stepped off the pitch from a league game,'' she says of the initial contact. ''Obviously I couldn't talk then but we arranged a conference call and went through all the terms.''

Refreshingly, Fleeting does not have an agent, although her father's experience as manager of Kilmarnock as well as his current post as development officer for the SFA, meant he was sufficiently qualified to advise her unofficially. ''It was a nice bonus. I'll be over there for three months and there will definitely be enough money to live on.''

With the blessing of her family, the support of her boyfriend, Kilmarnock's third-choice goalkeeper Colin Stewart, and the encouragement of her international coach, Vera Pauw, the final decision on a one-year contract with a three-year option was, in the US vernacular, a


She will return in time to take part in Scotland's European Championship play-off match and, depending on the success of his short stint, will contemplate her next move. ''Hopefully, when I come back, I will begin my year's probation as a PE teacher but whether or not I take up the option in the contract depends on how well I do over there.''

It is a far cry from her first nervous steps on to the football field for local side Cunninghame Boys Club, but she is indebted to Mrs Bert van Lingen, one of Holland's most-capped players, for helping her develop into a potentially world-class women's footballer.

''She's on holiday just now but I spoke to her as soon as I agreed to sign. She was always trying to push me because she knew I might be able to make a living out of the game and has always been very supportive.''

Whether daddy's girl or the new Gregory's Girl, you would not bet against her restoring San Diego's spirit. If only we had a guy just like her . . .


Nicky Grant Signed recently for the all-conquering Arsenal Ladies and is expected to continue her development in England. Midfield playmaker who also tried out football in Iceland with IBV.

Michelle Barr Was the Scotland captain before heading south to join Doncaster Belles, with Fleeting handed the armband. A tough-tackling defender, the 23-year-old has also spent some time in Iceland with IBV.

Donna James The youngest member of the Scotland squad, at the age of 18. Fleeting's strike partner for Ayr United and Scotland and also destined for bigger and better things.