IT is less than two months since Shelley Kerr and her backroom staff, along with the domestic players in Scotland’s squad, flew back from Alicante to Glasgow. On the very same day – March 11 – the World Health Organisation accorded Covid-19 pandemic status.

None of us on that packed EasyJet flight had the slightest inkling of what was to follow.

Murcia, where Scotland

had beaten Ukraine, Iceland and Northern Ireland to

win the Pinatar Cup, had

– unbelievably in retrospect – yet to record its first coronavirus case.

But while it had already started to take a grim hold in other parts of Spain, few of us took much notice of reports that cases had also been recorded in the UK. Footballers in Scotland being told not to shake hands after games? A bit over the top. That was the thinking at the time.

Well, we all know differently now. The solitary round of Scottish Building Society SWPL1 matches played in February remain the only domestic league activity of 2020. A restart in August looks the most optimistic outcome.

The future for Kerr and the international team is similarly uncertain, just as it is for football almost everywhere in Europe (Belarus, where competitive games are still being played, being the glaring exception).

By now Scotland should have played their third and fourth Euro 2021 qualifiers, away to Cyprus and at home to Portugal, with the fifth and sixth to follow in June against Albania and Finland.

Not only have these games been written off, but the Euro finals in England have themselves been put back 12 months until 2022. Despite this, UEFA now want all the qualifying groups to be concluded by December 1 this year, and have allocated international dates in September, October and late November for this to be achieved.

That, of course, is dependent on factors outwith the control of mere footballing authorities. Nevertheless, Kerr must proceed as if the rescheduled qualifiers will be played.

If nothing else, they hold out the promise that sport can once again take its place in society.

Looking back on those blue sky March days in Murcia, the Scotland head coach said: “You’ve gone on a really successful trip, built up some momentum, and within days things had escalated to a point where you knew about the severity of a global pandemic.

“My honest opinion is that football is the least of everybody’s priorities at the moment, but Uefa have changed the windows, which now go up to December 1. At the moment the stipulation is that all the qualifiers have to be played by then, with the play-offs in April 2021.

“We’re liaising with the other nations in our group, even although the least priority now is international football because the clubs have to be back playing first. All we can do is focus on making sure everyone is healthy and safe, and not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”

There are, as Kerr inferred, many potential problems which may torpedo UEFA’s revised plans, including the issue of whether non-essential international travel will be permitted in September.

As for the group itself, leaders Finland have only four games to play. Scotland and third-place Portugal both have six – so will face double-headers in each of the three windows.

LIKE many coaches in women’s football, Kerr has a high regard for Phil Neville.

The former Manchester United and Everton player will no longer lead England into their home Euros as his contract is not being renewed when it runs out next year.

“Phil brought a lot of kudos to the role,” Kerr pointed out. “He definitely raised the profile and support for the England women’s team. They also played one of their best 45 minutes against us in the World Cup.

“He’s obviously been scrutinised because of his results, but he’s in a situation where he hasn’t been been playing competitive games since the World Cup (because England, as hosts, are not involved in Euro qualifying). That’s very difficult and challenging.

“I can’t comment on other people’s contracts, but I liked him. I spent a bit of time chatting to him and I could talk football with him all day.

“He’s got a great manner and wanted to succeed and win things with England. That’s in his character and it’s what he knew as a player.

“If you’re the manager of the USA or England you’re expected to win, and you have the expectations of the nation on your shoulders all the time. I thought some of the criticism he received was unjustified, because you have to experiment, especially when you’re not playing competitive games.”