In a sensational summer of sport, footballer Alex Scott MBE has gone from woman of the match, to woman of the moment. Following her retirement from the game in May, Alex joined BBC Sports’ World Cup broadcasting team, before signing to Sky Sports as the channel’s first female football studio analyst.
Her stratospheric rise to the top of the sport comes as no surprise to those who know her. While her incredible fitness and physique look effortless and naturally developed, they are the result of endless hours of hard work and a steely determination to succeed.
Personal development and being unafraid of defying convention are recurring themes in Alex’s career which started in East London, at just eight, when she declared to her mother that she wanted to be a professional footballer. While it would have been easy to dismiss childish ambition, Alex’s mum, a single parent, encouraged her to follow her dream, working hard to equip her daughter with football boots.
“I started off playing in a football cage,” explains Alex. “I entered a tournament in Tower Hamlets where I was scouted and subsequently signed to Arsenal at eight. I saw it as an opportunity to achieve something. I wanted to succeed. I was awestruck walking in and seeing my hero, Ian Wright, as I loved his passion for the sport, so it seems strange to be working with him now.”
Prodigious child talent has been known to falter for many during the teenage years, but Alex finessed her football skills and – more importantly – her fitness. Having progressed to the senior team by 2005, after a brief stint at Birmingham City she was selected for Arsenal’s first team, scoring the winning goal at the 2007 UEFA Women’s Cup Final.
“I experienced a setback when I was in the youth team as I wasn’t picked for England,” says Alex. “I started as a striker but moved to the right back position and worked on my technique as a football player,” says Alex, “but I knew my strength was to concentrate on my fitness and to impress with an ability to run endlessly up and down the pitch. It makes me laugh when people say, ‘You’re naturally fit,’ but no, the truth is I work hard at it!
“Juicy Oasis is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of life”
“While I was at Arsenal I was voted England’s best female right back, but I never saw myself as the best or assumed I had a right to play. There’s always someone trying to take your shirt and for me I constantly go back to being that eight-year-old girl given a precious chance to succeed.”
Playing The Field
With 148 appearances for the Gunners and 140 caps for England, five Premier League titles, seven Women’s FA Cups and the Women’s Champions League accomplished, you could be forgiven for saying, job done. But for Alex, the next goal is always in mind. She pushed herself to go further, crossing the Atlantic to join the Women’s Professional Soccer League and playing for the Boston Breakers in 2009, before returning to play for England at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“I absolutely loved my years in Boston, playing out of Harvard with an average 10,000 spectators at home games. I had got to a stage in my career with Arsenal where I had been rated the best right back in England, and it would have been easy to stay. But I wanted to go professional, so I pushed myself to play in the US and prove myself on the world stage. It’s hard to say which was the best moment. As a kid, I dreamed of playing for England at a World Cup, but football was my way out of East London and Arsenal gave me that opportunity. It’s the place I always felt at home and the team will always be my other family.”
During her incredible playing career, Alex has seen seismic shifts in the women’s game and, having played her last match for Arsenal on 12 May, she is challenging convention again as a football commentator, firstly at the World Cup and now as a studio expert for Sky Sports. When she took to the airwaves on its Super Sunday show on 12 August, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“It took a few days to hit me what an amazing moment it was,” says Alex. “It was a bit surreal to finally be there, in the studio, talking about football, which I love. Although I covered the World Cup, all eyes were on me as the first woman on the Super Sunday panel.
“I’d been playing the game for so long but a couple of years ago I started to think, ‘What’s next?’ and I knew I wanted to transition into commentating. I started a media degree and, although it was tough, I had to learn my stuff and prove myself – I remember playing a match in Canada while submitting my dissertation.”
The same hard work and dogged determination which saw Alex power through the ranks of football will stand her in good stead during the next stage of her career at the top level of sports broadcasting. While she will undoubtedly give commentating her all, there’s a clear sense that this isn’t the end game. Alex has ambitions to move into mainstream presenting which she is already chipping away at, just like the eight-year-old girl who endlessly trained to become the world class footballer of her dreams.
“I had a lot of setbacks from an early age and people didn’t believe in me, but I had self-belief and a drive to get to the top. It’s the same with my media career. I’ve got an East London accent and was told I would never make it on national television, but here I am, having covered the World Cup for the BBC and now part of Sky Sports’ studio team. “I’m always thinking ahead and looking at the opportunities which I’m lucky enough to be given. Everyone thinks it’s a seamless transition from one thing to the next and that these amazing achievements just happen, but I’m always planning what’s next.”
As Alex debuted in the Sky Sports studio, rumours were circling that she was tipped to join the line-up for this season’s Strictly Come Dancing. Having participated in the Strictly Sport Relief Special earlier this year, out-dancing Chris Kamara and David Ginola, to take the glitter ball trophy with pro-dancer Pasha Kovalev. “I can categorically say I’m not doing Strictly this year,” she laughs, “but it is one of the shows I’ve always wanted to do and hopefully I will get the chance at some stage.”
No stranger to reality television, Alex participated in Bear Grylls’ Mission Survive in 2016, a challenge she says she was surprised to win. “I’d been in a football bubble since the age of eight and it was an opportunity to do something different. I thought I was signing up for a camping trip, but every day I would wake up petrified of the challenges we’d be given. I just kept chugging away to get to the end, so I was amazed when I won. You compete with no contact with the outside world, so I called my mum afterwards who was in the supermarket screaming when I said I’d won!”
With such a relentless schedule, Alex is careful to plan downtime to recharge. Before and after this summer’s World Cup she headed to Juicy Oasis to prepare both mentally and physically. “For a long time football was everything,” says Alex, “but as I’ve got older I’ve realised it’s important to balance things. I love music and going to live
shows, and travelling. Juicy Oasis is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of life and I find it incredibly relaxing to spend time there. I’m a very spiritual person and being at Juicy Oasis, meeting and chatting with the team and other guests, gives me good energy which helps me to recharge.”
As a sportswoman, nutrition has always been important to Alex’s performance on the pitch, and juicing has played a part in enabling her to train and play at the highest level of sport. “In the morning, I struggle to eat before I train,” says Alex, “so the easy option is to juice so I know I’m getting the nutrients in, and again after a game for recovery.
“I think your body tells you what you need and as long as you are getting the right nutrition most of the time, I think you can enjoy everything in moderation. I do love to eat and chatting with friends over brunch is one of life’s pleasures but, depending on my schedule, juicing fits in with my lifestyle. I usually go for an avocado-based juice or blend, which fills me up and gives me the energy I need.”
Although she has retired from the game, Alex maintains her fitness levels with regular exercise. While at Juicy Oasis, Alex enjoyed the walks and activities, even challenging Jason Vale to a ‘friendly’ match or two. “I will always be active,” says Alex. “I feel good when I exercise. It was great fun playing football with Jason, even though it was incredibly hot (47°) and he is very competitive!”
A legend in women’s football and now breaking barriers in broadcasting, it’s clear that Alex Scott still has everything to play for.