Alex Scott: The role model proving that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’

Alex Scott speaks prior to a Women's Super League match
Alex Scott speaks prior to the Women's Super League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Leigh Sports Village on October 09, 2021 (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

It’s fair to say that the football industry is still dominated by men. However, the past few years have seen a tremendous change for women in the sport. Former Arsenal player and England international Alex Scott is a prime example of a successful female working in football.

Here’s an insight into how she became such a big role model for me and many others.

Alex Scott: Her footballing journey

Scott signed for Arsenal at the age of eight and went on to become one of the most successful female English players. She started off as a forward/right-winger. However, she is now known as one of the best right-backs that played for England and Arsenal. An impressive 140 caps for the Lionesses makes her one of four players to represent her country this many times or more.

Football for women wasn’t always how it is now and players often had to work alongside the sport in order to pay the bills. At the age of 16, Alex was playing for Arsenal but she also worked in the laundry room at the club. Although football was her passion, this work allowed her to earn money which took pressure off her mum. £50-£100 per week went a long way for Alex.

It’s crazy to think how female players were earning £15,000 per year, while players like Martin Keown were getting £10,000 p/w.

Scott spent most of her playing career at Arsenal in three spells. She played for Birmingham City and also went out of her comfort zone to play overseas for Boston Breakers.

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In terms of winning trophies, Alex is quite a decorated player. She boasts five FA Women’s Premier League titles, one Women’s Super League title, seven Women’s FA Cups, two FA Women’s Premier League Cups, three FA WSL Cups, and one UEFA Women’s Cup. She also represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics. Some would say she needs a bigger trophy cabinet.

Alex was part of the 2006/07 Arsenal team that became the first British team to win the Women’s UEFA Cup. It was an amazing memory she and many Gunners will remember forever — especially her 91st-minute winning goal.

Her final spell at Arsenal was one she and others will remember for a long time. In 2014, she was named captain for her childhood club, a reward for her amazing contributions. During that time, she won three FA Cups and the FA WSL Title in 2012. When she retired from football in 2018, she said: “You gave a little girl hope, you gave me an escape, you gave me a chance. Arsenal is me yesterday, today and tomorrow. Always. THANK YOU.”

In 2017, Alex was awarded an MBE for her contributions to women’s football, which was hugely deserved. This achievement not only meant a lot to Alex, but it was a celebration with her mum and nan — two women who helped shape her.

From footballer to sports broadcaster

The Lionesses waved goodbye to Alex back in 2017, but her career in the football industry was far from over. She became one of the first female pundits to work for the BBC when she covered the men’s World Cup in 2018. She also worked for Sky Sports and more recently, viewers can see her hosting the BBC’s The One Show.

Despite many people sharing positive comments about her work, she did receive many abusive and sexist remarks. Alex has openly spoke about this in the media. Her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019 also lead to her needing therapy due to the negative abuse she received online.

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Alex Scott found her love for sports media during her time at Boston Breakers. She wrote weekly blogs, connecting with fans on a personal level. This passion continued and following the introduction of the PFA, Alex applied to study Sports Writing and Broadcast Media at Staffordshire University.

It’s no surprise that her first experience of live broadcasting was working with Arsenal TV. It was only right that she started both her football and media career at her childhood club.

During her studies, Alex experienced being the only Black woman in a room full of white men over 40. The inequalities didn’t phase her, and now she has gone on to have an amazing career on and off the pitch.

How (not) to be strong

In 2022, Alex released her book called How (Not) To Be Strong. As soon as I saw it was in shops, I had to read it straight away. Scott talks about her struggles growing up in East London on a council estate with her single mother. She spent most days in the cages kicking a ball around with a group of boys. At just eight years old, she was noticed by Arsenal and the rest, as we say, is history.

Throughout her book, Alex opens up about her life, letting the world know that despite her displaying an outgoing personality on and off the pitch, she dealt with many struggles that helped her get to where she is today.

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When Alex graduated from the England youth game her coach, Mo Marley, praised her with words she said she will never forget.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you will go on and play for England. Not only that, you will captain your country. That’s how much I believe in you.” And that she did.

Reading this book gave me a lot of inspiration. The emotion and honesty she shared was something that I connected with on a personal level. Being a mixed race girl living with a single mum with a passion for playing football is very similar to my childhood. Although I didn’t pursue a professional career in football, I was able to relate in many other ways which has given me the motivation to work hard and achieve my dreams.

An inspiration

Growing up playing and watching football, I never thought it would have become as big as it is now. Most of the games I watched were men’s teams but now I much prefer to watch the women’s game. Alex Scott was one player who I enjoyed watching when I was younger.

Playing a similar position to me, she was someone who I could take notes from to help improve my game. Her ability to defend so well but also contribute in attacking areas was what made her such a great player. Not only has she proved that women can be successful footballers, but she constantly shows that football isn’t just a sport for men.

As Alex said in her book: “Don’t ever let fear hold you back.”

No one expected women’s football to reach the level it is at now, but it was women like Alex Scott who proved everyone wrong.

One saying I like is: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Alex is a role model to so many and if you work hard, you will achieve your dreams.

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