Determination – 20
Off the ball – 20
Teamwork – 20
Work rate – 19
Technique – 18
Stamina – 18
Preferred foot – either
These are not merely stats, these are blueprints to a world-class midfielder; the type of player who, once signed, would be the first name on the team sheet. Think Kevin De Bruyne, Zinedine Zidane or Paul Scholes. These stats do not belong to these elite-level players, however. No. These stats were attached to a 19-year-old Scottish player plying his trade at Falkirk Football Club.
These stats are courtesy of the immensely popular football simulation game Championship Manager 2001/02. Mark Kerr, despite the mass hype generated from this game, became just another journeyman player who fell well short of the unfeasible expectation put upon him by the game. He joins the likes of Ibrahima Bakayako, Cherno Samba and Freddy Adu as some of the greatest let-downs ever produced by the videogame series.
If you simmed through the game for a decade or more then it was not unreasonable to see Mark Kerr lining up for teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, trophy chasing and running riot in Europe.
Kerr did win trophies and did play in Europe, though it was nowhere near as grand as it may sound. His two trophies came 15 years apart. He won promotion to the top flight of Scottish football with Falkirk in 2002/03, and then won promotion to the Scottish Championship with Ayr United in 2017/18.
In between this he spent a year and a half playing for Asteras Tripolis in the Greek Superleague. This was certainly a new experience for Kerr, though not quite the level of European football that he would have hoped to play at as a teenager.
Kerr did not win a trophy at Dundee United, whom he joined in July 2003, but he did enjoy his longest continued spell with a club whilst at the Tannadice outfit (he made more appearances for Falkirk, but this was over two spells).
The early years at United were, by and large, very positive for the player. While the game would value Kerr anywhere from £800K – 2 million, the player ended up leaving Falkirk on a Bosman. Ian McCall, his former boss at Falkirk, had taken over the Tayside team and chose to bring his loyal player with him.
He went on to make over 150 appearances for United and, while never being a fan-favourite per se, he was well respected by the fans as a tenacious player who could always be counted on to put in a shift. Former Dundee United teammate Seán Dillon was more effusive with his praise. “Kerzo was brilliant,” Dillon told Heart of Football. “He was brilliant with me as a person away from football, within football, on the training pitch, around Camperdown Park doing our running, on the pitch in matches, in the dressing room; an unbelievably good guy.”
This respect and appreciation that he had spent four and a half years cultivating was obliterated by one sickening pass in the 2008 CIS Cup Final. Despite being underdogs, Dundee United were 1-0 up against Glasgow Rangers. In the 85th minute, with United doing all they could to take the sting out of the game. A skirmish in the United box saw the ball drop to Kerr on the edge of the D.
Rather than hitting it high, he passed it back towards his goalkeeper through a crowded box. The pass was short, however, and Rangers striker Kris Boyd latched on to it and stuck it into the back of the net with ease. This put the score at 1-1, with Rangers winning the game on penalties after extra time saw the score sit at 2-2.
I was there at Hampden on 16 March 2008. I was there as a 12-year-old, watching on in horror as Kerr gifted Rangers the equaliser and breaking my heart in the process. I will always hold it against him. I also saw him for years beforehand. He was never the star he was predicted to be, but he was a decent midfielder.
Dillon prefers to remember the man behind the career rather than that painful moment. “He was so professional, so good at what he’s done. It’s a shame that he is remembered by so many for that moment. I know that’s how football works. If you said to me ‘Mark Kerr’, that’s not even close to what I’d be thinking of.” He went on to say that the players never had a problem with Kerr for the pass, that it was just one of those things. It was frustrating, but it didn’t lose them the game.
It is easy to criticise him and even easier to call him a waste of talent or an unfulfilled potential, but it should be remembered that realistically, he has enjoyed a perfectly good career, turning out over 500 career appearances for several teams, playing abroad and featuring in two cup finals, as well as winning two league titles.
Realistically, a 19-year-old from Falkirk was never going to brush shoulders with the world’s greatest. What is the overall reaction of Kerr? To Falkirk fans he is a bit of a cult hero, to Dundee United fans he is a villain. To most he is a journeyman. To his teammates, he is a consummate professional and fantastic guy. To a select few, however, he will always be an up-and-comer. He will always be the perfect first signing on Champ Man 01/02.