Kerr offers glimpses of her class as new Chelsea star makes WSL bow
When reports first emerged linking Sam Kerr to Chelsea, it was on the eve of Australia’s Women’s World Cup last 16 clash with Norway.
It was out of the blue and a report that, at the time, was not given any serious thought by those who had flown to France from down under to cover the Matildas.
After all, it came on the eve of their biggest game yet - there was something more important to focus on.
- Champions League 2021-22 Power Rankings: Man Utd, Real Madrid & Ajax among the climbers
- Ronaldo, Solskjaer and Man Utd respond to critics with yet another sensational comeback against Atalanta
- Lukaku and Werner injuries a blow for Chelsea but fringe players can help Tuchel cope without £150m strikeforce
- Ex-Real Madrid triallist Alvarez taking Argentina by storm as goals keep flowing for River Plate
Few would have imagined that it would lead to almost seven months of constant speculation, eventually culminating in her move to west London and long-awaited debut for the Blues on Sunday in their 3-1 win over Reading.
Thousands piled in to see the Aussie, whose face had led every form of marketing promotion for this fixture, despite it coming just eight days after she touched down at Heathrow Airport.
Her name was greeted with raptures when read over the tannoy in the starting line-up, especially when nothing more than a place on the bench was expected.
And she certainly whet the appetite of the home fans, combining with Beth England up front as if they had been playing together years.
It was Kerr’s backheel flick that led to the England international slotting home an equaliser before the break, following Fara Williams’ opener at the other end, a goal that was coming.
It was not the first flick or trick from the former Chicago Red Stars forward, who could have scored within two minutes herself had she not blazed over, one-on-one with Grace Moloney before her pace led to the goalkeeper seeing red inside 20 minutes.
She should have scored when Guro Reiten put the Blues into the lead too, only for her to be denied by substitute Rachael Laws before the Norwegian lifted the ball into an empty net.
Of course, Kingsmeadow was never going to see the very best of Kerr in her first appearance in Chelsea colours.
Not only was it just over a week after she arrived in the capital, jet-lagged but well rested, given a much deserved break by the registration rule that meant she could not play in the WSL until December 27, despite signing on November 13.
It was also almost two months since Kerr last played a competitive fixture; when Australia beat Chile 1-0 on November 12.
This is a player, after all, who had a non-stop 2019, scoring a hat-trick on her return to the Red Stars in July, that, coincidentally, was also just eight days after Australia were eliminated from the World Cup by Norway.
It feels like years since that triple haul against the Orlando Pride, such has been the intensity of the speculation of her moving to Europe.
For Chelsea fans, it will feel like they have been waiting years for her debut too, when in reality, it has been just short of two months since the 26-year-old’s signing was announced.
Since then, any keen women’s football fan has not been able to browse social media without seeing her face, name or videos of just what she can do.
There were glimpses of the latter against Reading. Her sheer pace, trickery, clever movement and ability to read play all shining through before she was withdrawn after 77 minutes.
There is always the danger of overhyping a new signing, but it is difficult to do that with a player who holds almost every single scoring record in both the NWSL and W-League have.
With leaders Arsenal to come later this month, this game was about Emma Hayes blooding Kerr into life as a WSL player nicely, something that she will continue to do in the two games that follow. Hayes knows full well that the Aussie could hold the key to wrestling this year’s title from Arsenal.
As the Blues pursue that, the WSL will see more than their fair share of Kerr and her quality, there is no doubt about that.
And once she has spent eight months or so settling into her new surroundings, the general cliche of overseas transfers says that next season will be even better.
For now, Chelsea supporters, followers of the WSL and women’s football fans around the world have had their glimpse.
And those who were at Kingsmeadow today? Well, they have an ‘I was there’ story that should age like a fine wine.