Double delight for Scottish Matildas
© Foto-net

Anyone who wandered in too late to hear Australia's coach and the Player of Match introduced at yesterday's post-match press conference would have been forgiven for wondering if they had taken a wrong turn. Just as confused would have been the hotel guests woken in the wee small hours of this morning by cheering from Tom Sermanni's room, this some ten hours after his side had completed their impressive 4-1 win over Ghana.

However unlikely, the explanation for both was simple enough. The lack of Aussie accents at the Matildas' own media briefing and the racket coming from their coach's room just as the sun was rising over Hangzhou could both be attributed to a small nation on the other side of the world.

It was in Scotland, after all - indeed in the same football-fixated city of Glasgow - that both Sermanni and star midfielder Collette McCallum were born, and the pair's ties to the country they departed decades ago remain just as strong as their unmistakeable brogues. It was, therefore, no surprise to see both sporting particularly wide grins this morning, this after Australia's first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup win had been followed up by an historic victory for the Scots in Paris.

As Sermanni, who resisted the temptation to sleep in order to catch the 3am kick-off, told "I had a text from my brother back in Glasgow at 5am telling me about the result - I'm not sure he expected one back to say that I had been up watching it! It was absolutely magnificent, a real pleasure to watch, and my congratulations go to the Scottish coach and players. It really was sensational. I would have felt a bit greedy wishing for wins for both Australia and Scotland yesterday so, yeah, it turned out to be a real red letter day."

'I'm a huge Celtic fan'
McCallum's classy and committed contribution to ending Australia's nine-game winless streak left her too weary to watch Alex McLeish's side attempt mission improbable, but having been in the Hampden crowd that cheered the Scots to the first part of a remarkable Les Bleus double, the 21-year-old's delight was no less palpable. Despite the fact that she was just four when her parents made the life-altering decision to head Down Under, regular return visits and an affinity with the Scottish mentality has, as McCallum explained, left the gifted midfielder with divided loyalties.

"I'd say I feel half-Scottish, half-Australian," she said. "I definitely feel a huge connection to both countries, and I will always have that Scottish side to me, no matter how long I live away. It seems strange to say but I genuinely miss the place. But I also love living in Australia, and there was no dilemma for me at all in deciding to play for the Matildas.

"It is funny, I don't know myself how I still have the accent given how young I was when we left, but it seems to be as strong as ever. It's actually when I get nervous that it becomes even stronger, which isn't good for people who have a job understanding it - pretty much everyone! I've lived in Australia for about 17 years but I go back to Scotland as often as I can. I love the place. It still feels like home in a lot of ways. The fact they're all absolutely football-mad in Glasgow helps. It's an unbelievable city for that, and you just don't get that same passion in Australia.

"Whenever I'm back, it really is as if I've never been away - it's like a football holiday for me. I'm a huge Celtic fan and the last time I was there I think I managed to squeeze in 12 Celtic games because all my cousins have season tickets."

Sermanni gone soft?
Continuing the seemingly endless list of parallels, Sermanni - himself a former midfielder - shares McCallum's club allegiances; indeed it was at Celtic Boys Club that the Australia coach began his football career. Over the years, and particularly since his move into coaching, that career has become increasingly nomadic, with his move to Australia at the age of 28 precipitating stints in Japan, the US and Malaysia.

Now, at 53, the Glaswegian is back where he feels he belongs, filling a post he first held at the birth of Australia's women's programme in 1994. Indeed, for all that he too returns every year to the city he left behind over a quarter of a century ago, Sermanni admits that Australia is likely to have him for keeps.

"Aye, probably," he said, pausing briefly for thought. "My wife and I have never had a plan as such, it's the only way to be in football, but we're very settled in Australia now and a lot of our adult friends are there. It appealed to me for a long time in the 90s to come back to the UK and coach a club side but I think I'm too old for that now. And I'm not sure I'd fancy the grind of training through the British winter, I've probably gone a bit soft in that respect!"

His capacity for braving the elements on a wet and windy January day in his hometown might have diminished, but the Glaswegian knack of knowing how to celebrate a momentous victory certainly has not. "Absolutely right," he said, laughing, "I'm going to really enjoy this because, trust me, I get absolutely hammered by the girls when things aren't going so well! And with Scotland, that tends to be most of the time... "