The promise of Sam Kerr
The promise of Sam Kerr was that she’d score goals.
No. The promise of Sam Kerr was that she was, is, one of the top forwards in the world and she was finally coming to England, still in her peak, after years in America and Australia. And that she’d score goals.
The promise of Sam Kerr was not made by Sam Kerr, but the burden of the debts still falls on Sam Kerr’s shoulders. She has not yet scored in three appearances for Chelsea in England, and this from a striker who hasn’t dipped below 0.7 goals per 90 minutes in any (FBref.com-recorded) league season since playing with the Western New York Flash in 2014. She was 20 years old.
The light was waning but the crowd was cheering in France in the summer when Sam Kerr told critics to ‘suck on that one’ in an on-pitch post-match interview after beating Brazil and it wasn’t just in the context of a surprising Australian coaching change just months previously or a surprising defeat to Italy in their first match or the all-too unsurprising homophobic insults online which Kerr tweeted about afterwards but it was the kind of “I will always, always remember this moment,” moment that is not only short enough to be clipped and giffed and shared and quoted but struck such a chord with so many of those people who were watching and felt included by the Women’s World Cup for those great weeks in June and July.
Sam Kerr was now relatable.
Ninety seconds into her first match for Chelsea, Sam Kerr was one-on-one against Reading’s goalkeeper Grace Moloney. Sam Kerr is Sam Kerr, and this was her debut, and that was the goal right there in front of her, but she mis-hit her shot just enough to make you not remember, but realise, perhaps for the first time, that Sam Kerr trains to get this good and she can, like us, make mistakes too. And then not long after it was Moloney’s turn to make a mistake, misjudging a through-ball aimed for Kerr, and collecting, at speed, the striker instead of the ball.
In Sam Kerr’s second match, she got one stage further in a one-on-one, this time against Bristol City’s Sophie Baggaley, floating past the ‘stopper’ with ease, and now Sam Kerr was Sam Kerr, this was her home debut, and that was the goal, open, there in front of her. But the interest was mounting on the debt of the Sam Kerr promise, and City defender Jasmine Matthews arrived sliding in the nick of time to clear Kerr’s shot at the open goal off the line.
In Sam Kerr’s third match, nobody apart from those at the stadium could see any of it, because the Continental Tyres Cup isn’t shown or streamed anywhere like some warped own goal of the Saturday 3pm blackout rule. Sam Kerr did not score, but if Sam Kerr does not score in England and it’s in the Continental Tyres Cup so nobody sees it, does it still fail to live up to the Sam Kerr promise?
Sam Kerr’s arrival at Chelsea in January had been official since November and rumoured for longer. The move had ‘happened’ for so long prior to happening that the discussions, when she did actually join, were about her wages instead, large enough to spark ‘state of the women’s game’ tweets and podcast segments. The Sam Kerr story crossed the Atlantic before she did. The expectation of her goalscoring accomplishments in England has arrived long before the goals have too.
To lift a sentence from the Chelsea FC website, Kerr:
is the all-time leading goalscorer in the W-League with 70 goals and has netted a further 69 in the USA having represented Western New York Flash, Sky Blue FC and Chicago, claiming three golden boots and two MVPs.
The promise of Sam Kerr was not made by her. But the promise of Sam Kerr, and all the goals she’ll score in England, was built by her.