SHELLEY Kerr’s name wasn’t one of those mentioned in connection with either the manager’s post at Rangers or the director of football role which the Ibrox club is poised to create. Yet, the prospect of Kerr taking up a prominent position at a professional club in Scotland in the future isn’t as absurd as many in what can be a decidedly unenlightened environment would doubtless suggest.

The 47-year-old, the first female manager in British men’s senior football, certainly harbours ambitions to further herself after three seasons in charge of Stirling University.

“I have never hidden the fact that I am an ambitious person,” she said. “Here and now, I am happy in the job that I am doing. But, of course, I want to work at the highest level possible.”

Kerr has encountered cynicism, ridicule and outright sexism in football since she was a football-obsessed girl growing up in the mining village of Polbeth in West Lothian and has never been deterred.

“I have always had barriers in my way, have always faced challenges,” she said. “When I went to secondary school I wasn’t allowed to play. It shattered me as a person. But it has made me the character I am today.”

Kerr, a former Scotland women’s centre-half, stressed that since taking over as men’s high performance coach at Stirling University in 2014, an appointment which made headlines across the United Kingdom and even further afield, her sex hasn’t been an issue either with her own players or at rival clubs.

“It was pretty mad at the time,” she said over a coffee in the university’s sports centre cafe. “It was a bit of a distraction, but I just tried to focus on the job. I just wanted to get in and do the best I could. I honestly didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“Hopefully, the opposition teams and other managers see someone who knows football, who prepares the team very well tactically. I have never had any problems. I have been well received.

“There aren’t many females working in the men’s game at a higher level. Me doing this job at Stirling is an isolated situation. But female coaches need to want to do it. I did. I saw a job that was advertised, thought I could do it and went for it. Thankfully, Stirling were forward-thinking. It’s been fantastic.”

Kerr has, inevitably, been installed as the front-runner to take over from Anna Signeul as coach of the Scotland’s women’s team when the Swede leaves to take up the same position with Finland following the Euro 2017 finals in the Netherlands in the summer. “It is flattering, but I am fully focused on my job with Stirling,” she said.

But would a club chairman or owner at an Alloa, an Arbroath or an East Fife or even an Ayr United, a Falkirk or a Queen of the South seriously contemplate appointing a woman as their manager? Time will tell.

Kerr’s curriculum vitae would impress prospective employers. She holds, after all, a Uefa Pro-Licence. That wasn’t something Mark Warburton could lay claim to when he took over at Rangers two years ago. She had to prove her worth in some decent company to reach that level.

“I did the pro-licence with David Weir, David Unsworth, Graham Alexander, Ray McKinnon, Jim McIntyre, Stuart McCall, Alec Cleland, Gary Locke, Nick Dasovic, Paul Ritchie, Scott Booth and Alan Stubbs,” she said.

“As you can imagine they were very strong characters. But the course was fantastic and my colleagues were great. You are on it for 18 months and spend a lot of time with one another. We had access to some excellent speakers on the course, Marcello Lippi, Andre Villas-Boas, Gregor Townsend, Sir Alex Ferguson, Davie Moyes. It was really beneficial, a wonderful learning process.”

Stirling University isn’t part of the pro-youth set-up, but Kerr understands the need for it to change as well as anyone involved in our national game having seen the devastating impact that failing to make it as a professional can have on the youngsters in its bloated ranks. She is an enthusiastic advocate, therefore, of the recommendations contained in Project Brave.

“To get accepted for a men’s football scholarship at the university you need to have, as well as the necessary academic qualifications, experience of playing at an academy,” she said. “When these players come here, their confidence is often low because their dreams have been shattered. They are quite vulnerable when they come in here. The initial stages here are about trying to increase their self-belief levels.

“I have been reading a lot about Project Brave and think it is a much-needed change in terms of the academy system. It will be good for Scottish football moving forward. The downside is that there will be a lot of players coming out of the set-up. But the programme we have at Stirling University is a good exit strategy.”

Those who are accepted can receive a scholarship worth up to £4000 a year. Players combine their studies with training and playing in both the British Universities’ League and the Lowland Leagues.

Stirling University are currently in a mid-table position in the latter. But the young average age and lack of experience of her side present unique challenges for Kerr. She has, though, rather different aspirations to her counterparts.

“The whole philosophy behind the programme is to try to develop these young men into being well-rounded people,” she said. “If we can get them a degree and get them back into the game, even if it is part-time, then we deem that a success. When they graduate after four years I am delighted because it gives them a great opportunity to get a good job as well as to play football when and where they want to.”

You would be foolish to rule out Shelley Kerr graduating to a higher level and landing a high-profile job in the future too.