DEBBI McCULLOCH'S trip to Costa Rica for the second edition of the FIFA coaching mentorship programme was, by her own account, a once in a lifetime experience. Some of the biggest names in the women's game were in the Central American country to impart their knowledge.

They included the Swede Pia Sundhage, a World Cup finalist with the USA in 2011 and now Brazil's head coach. Also there, fresh from the recent Euros, were Corinne Diacre (France), Jorge Vilda (Spain) and someone not unknown in these parts, Anna Signeul (Finland).

Glaswegian Tom Sermanni, another former USA head coach who also had spells in charge of Australia and New Zealand, was an attendee, as was Pedro Martinez Losa. An exhilarated but exhausted McCulloch arrived back in Edinburgh on Monday – and although she hadn't been physically present at Ainslie Park the previous day, the Spartans head coach played her part in the 2-1 SWPL win over Hearts.

McCulloch, whose mentor on the programme is Juventus and former Arsenal head coach Joe Montemurro, takes up the story.

“I got up at 2.30am Costa Rica time to prepare for the game,” she reported. “I did my team talk via Zoom at 4am and left for the airport at San Jose 45 minutes later to fly home.

“I watched the first half in the airport lounge with Joe and a couple of the other coaches on a stream the club had arranged for me. I trust our staff, but I wanted to be kicking every ball with the girls.

“We watched the second half on the plane. We literally started to take off when there were just three minutes left.

“The stream cut out when Hearts got a free kick just outside our penalty box. I managed to keep a connection on my phone and got a text from Adam, our kit manager, saying it was full time and we'd won.

“I was able to go to sleep then.”

McCulloch admits she felt apprehensive about joining such illustrious company in Costa Rica but was immediately put at her ease by former Scotland head coach Signeul, whose contract with Finland until December was terminated early last month, and the other mentors.

The programme was based in Costa Rica because the Women's Under-20 World Cup is being held there. McCulloch went to the match between France and Nigeria (1-0 for Nigeria) and that, too, proved to be an unforgettable experience.

“It was a fantastic stadium and atmosphere, but the game was stopped after about 30 minutes due to thunder and lightning and the pitch being flooded because of intense rain,” she said. “After an hour it restarted, but once the sky cleared it filled with moths – and they have no sense of direction so they were just hitting off you.”

So, what has McCulloch taken back to Scotland from the trip?

“I went into it thinking it would be very much about the tactical side of the game, but speaking to the majority of coaches tactics isn't something they focus on,” McCulloch said. “At the top level it's all about mindset, managing players and effective communication.

“I've always seen that as a priority as well, but maybe over the last year I've over-complicated things with tactics, etc. They're saying don't do that.

“People think that to be the best coach you have to be this tactical mastermind. It's a wee bit like you can't be a good coach if you haven't played at the top level, which is nonsense.”

Spartans travel to the Excelsior to play Celtic today, and this time McCulloch will be on the premises to deliver the team talk and kick every ball.

IT was a pleasure interviewing Glasgow City's new central defender Meikayla Moore ahead of Thursday's Champions League game against Roma, which the Serie A runners-up won 3-1.

The match came almost six months to the day since Moore scored three own goals in just 31 first half minutes playing for New Zealand against the USA in the SheBelieves Cup. The 26-year-old was quickly subbed and the world champions went on to win 5-0.

It was, Moore says, an extremely traumatic experience, and one which she initially struggled with. She was with Liverpool at the time, and – to his immense credit – men's manager Jurgen Klopp was among those who helped restore her equilibrium by pointing out it had just been a freak sequence of events.

Moore now says she won't let it define her, and is already looking forward to next summer's World Cup in her home country and Australia.