SHELLEY Kerr will be remembered as the head coach who took the Scotland women’s team to a World Cup for the first time. The tournament in France also proved to be the turning point of her 34 games in charge of the national side.

“A good morning to bury bad news,” was the immediate and cynical reaction of a colleague when, at 10am on Christmas Eve, the Scottish FA announced Kerr was stepping down. She had been contracted to stay on until the final two Group E qualifiers in February.

Kerr was the SFA’s preferred candidate for the job when Anna Signeul intimated at the start of 2017 that she was moving to a similar post with Finland. The former Scotland centre-half was formally appointed in April and took over the reins after the Euros in the Netherlands.

Her opening game, a low-key 3-0 friendly win in Hungary, was notable for goalkeeper Lee Alexander making her debut in place of the recently-retired Gemma Fay, an exuberant Claire Emslie scoring her first Scotland goal, and other fringe players being given game time. It was a statement that a new regime was in place and things were going to change.

Kerr did indeed revitalise a side which had become predictable, with established players being guaranteed starting places and younger ones denied opportunities. There was also more attacking flair, even if some defensive deficiencies – especially in the right-back position – remained.

The home games against Switzerland and the United States late in 2018 were high points, but the comeback from two goals down in Poland, and a 4-1 win over Iceland in the Algarve Cup the following year, were also memorable. As, ironically, were the opening 70 minutes against Argentina at the Parc des Princes when Scotland went 3-0 up and looked to have secured a historic last-16 World Cup place.

Just about everything which could have gone wrong in the next 24 hours did. Three goals were conceded, the last thanks to VAR which Fifa were using for the first time at a women’s tournament, with matters deteriorating further at the team’s secluded Paris hotel the following evening.

The revelation, which only emerged two months later, that there had been unspecified alcohol-fuelled altercations was hugely damaging not just for Kerr, but also in a wider context.

The growing groundswell of support for the women’s team, exemplified by the euphoric World Cup send-off game against Jamaica at Hampden, was replaced by a perception that the alleged events in Paris had not been transparently dealt with – and that there would have been different outcomes had they involved Steve Clarke and the men’s team.

Former right-back Emma Black, who was a Scotland and Glasgow City team-mate of several players in the current squad, was not surprised by Kerr’s departure.

“I felt from the outside there was like a divide in the camp – pro Shelley and against Shelley. Obviously that was after the Argentina situation.”

Failing to qualify for the Euros in England is a massive setback, especially as for the first time Scotland were top seeds in their group. Did internal friction have any bearing on that, or was it simply random chance that opportunities were not converted into goals in each of the three disastrous 1-0 defeats?

The latter might be true of the Finland double-header, but the senior players have to take ownership of the inexplicable lack of drive and ambition against Portugal in Lisbon. This, above all, was the game which sank Scotland’s hopes.

According to the SFA, the aim is to have a successor in place in time for February’s away game in Cyprus and the return against Portugal four days later. Normally the performance director would play a pivotal role in the recruitment process, but Malky Mackay has also left the premises.

He is unlikely to be replaced as the performance and development departments are being merged due to SFA cutbacks. Andy Gould has been elevated to chief football officer and will be heavily involved in finding a successor.

Obvious candidates are not thick on the ground for a position which has been filled by just three women since 1998. Vera Pauw was the other.

Kerr gave everything to the job, and until the World Cup made a big success of it. That, and her significant contribution to the national team over a period of 31 years, can never be taken away from her, but Thursday’s unseasonal announcement was the logical one for all concerned.