Arsenal Ladies are at the cusp of a new era. Long time captain Faye White announced her retirement this week and new manager Shelley Kerr took charge of her first competitive match as Arsenal Ladies manager last Wednesday. However some things never change and the Arsenal Ladies are always in the silverware hunt on all fronts. Last season they won the Women’s Super league- their ninth successive league title win- and the Continental Cup.
On Wednesday afternoon, they beat Italian champions ASD Torres 3-1 at Borehamwood in the 1st Leg of their Champions League Quarter Final. The girls have an added incentive for European glory this year with the final being held in London at Stamford Bridge. This week, they face away cup ties at Nottingham Forest, in the F.A. Cup 5th Round at Corby Town. As well as the second leg against Torres in Italy on Wednesday as the Ladies look to book a semi final place in the Champions League.
Following on from Mikel Arteta meeting Arseblog last month, the folks at Puma invited us back, this time to speak with Arsenal and England Ladies right back Alex Scott. Alex is in her 3rd spell at Arsenal, having joined the club when she was 8 years old. She has also had a spell at Birmingham City and played professionally in the States for 2 years with Boston Breakers.
Alex scored the winning goal in Arsenal’s 2007 Champions League triumph and has won 5 Premier League titles, 1 WSL title, 5 F.A. Cups, 1 Continental Cup, 2 League Cups, 1 Champions League and captained England recently in the Cyprus Cup. She also played all 5 games for Team GB at last summer’s Olympics. Tim Stillman took some time out to chat with Alex about the upcoming season, Faye White, Kelly Smith, the Euros, why Arsenal is in her heart and her plans for the future.
Alex, thanks for giving up your time for Arseblog News this afternoon. Starting with the Torres ASD game this week. It was an emphatic performance from Arsenal and Torres were probably flattered by the eventual scoreline. One of the surprises though was to see Kelly Smith playing in central midfield. Is this likely to be her position this season?
We have a new manager now with new ideas and she started with Jennifer Beattie upfront. Kelly is an incredibly talented footballer and can play in any position. For England she’s used in the number 10 role just behind the striker, so she’s used to operating there. Last season, it was better to have Kelly higher up the pitch as a striker due to her injuries; she’s such a clinical finisher as she showed in the Torres game, so maybe Laura thought it would help her and the team more to play her there. But Shelley has new ideas and we’ll see how it pans out this season.
Kelly sadly had to go off with an injury. How is she doing?
The injury wasn’t on her knee; she took a knock in the same place where she broke her ankle last year. The x-ray showed no break, which is good. It’s just a case of seeing how it settles down in the next few days.
Kelly started the game as captain yesterday, which brings me on to another Arsenal captain. Faye White announced her retirement this week. I wondered if you wanted to just say a few words about how she influenced your career?
I came through the youth ranks at Arsenal and Faye has always been there as a team leader. She’s so natural in that role, when people talk about captains being born leaders, that is Faye all over. She always went out of her way to help and give advice and always put the team before herself. She’s been an excellent ambassador for women’s football and we all wish her the best of luck in the next chapter of her career. Faye’s worked at the club for many years not just as a player, so she’ll still be at the club as an ambassador, trying to push the women’s game even further and looking to be the face of women’s football.
I read Kelly Smith’s autobiography recently and your name appears an awful lot as somebody that inspired Kelly personally and professionally, especially when you played in Boston together. With Faye gone and Jayne Ludlow and Kelly Smith not playing in every game, do you see yourself as one of the leaders in this team now?
Hope Powell gave me the armband in Cyprus last week for England, which was a huge honour. It was the first time I’d ever captained England and she’s on record to say that she considers me a leader for the group now, which is a great achievement and honour for me personally. I’ve been at Arsenal for a long time, I was there as a youngster and I know what it is to want my chance and work hard for it. It’s a role I’ve matured into; I didn’t see myself as a captain or a leader when I was younger. My aim is to use my experience and my work ethic to bring the youngsters through at Arsenal and help them along. I’m enjoying that responsibility too.
The thing that sticks out most in your game, Alex, is your energy from full back. You play every game that you’re fit for for club and country and yet you never seem to stop running up and down that line. What sort of training do you do in an average week to maintain those energy levels?
With our semi professional contracts in England, we now train every day. That was one of the reasons I was so excited to come back to the WSL. It’s not just two nights of training a week anymore as it was when I started. We have more in depth club commitments now and we’re strength and conditioning specialists and training every day. There are no shortcuts in the women’s game in England now; you have to put the work in every single day if you want to play at the top level. That’s been great for me because one of the key parts of my game is my fitness and energy levels to get up and down the pitch. I don’t want to lose that and the only way not to lose it is to work hard off the field.
I started off as a frustrated striker at Arsenal when I was a kid, but Vic Akers always said I didn’t score enough goals, I preferred to set teammates up. He moved me back to right back because he saw that I had the attributes to play there and I haven’t looked back. I love to attack so it’s important that I can get up and down the pitch.
Alex, you’re now in your 3rd spell at Arsenal, having had a one season spell with Birmingham City and two years as a full professional in the States. What is it that keeps you coming back to Arsenal?
It’s a second home to me. Arsenal is where it all started; I came here when I was 8. Vic Akers took me here and he’s been like a second father figure to me throughout my career. Even when I left for Birmingham when I was 19 he was there for me. I was a striker at the time and I was behind Marieanne Spacey and sitting on the bench. I needed the experience of playing regularly. I played regularly at Birmingham which saw me called up to the England team.
It was a natural progression to come back to Arsenal at that point. I’m from London and I’ve always supported Arsenal as well. When I came back again from America when the professional league collapsed out there, it was an easy conclusion to come back to Arsenal where it all began. This is where I feel at home.
You said Arsenal took you on at the age of 8. How did they scout you? What happened between them taking you aged 8 and making your debut aged 16?
I was spotted playing in a boys’ 5-a-side tournament in Tower Hamlets. One of the referees was a friend of Vic Akers’. I didn’t really know if there were women’s football teams out there at the time, I just enjoyed playing football with my brother and his friends. So the referee got in touch with Vic and Vic invited me down to Highbury to train, back when we used to train at the Highbury ball court, behind the Clock End.
Vic signed me up straight away but there weren’t really any younger female teams so I went straight into training with the U-15s. I was training twice a week with the U-15s every Tuesday and Thursday night, then when I was 15 I began training with the first team. I played in the Reserves for a little while before progressing into the first team, where I made my debut when I was 16.
That must have been quite daunting training with 14 and 15 year olds when you were 8?
It made me a far better player because I was trying to impress them and I had to work really hard. I was able to look up to the likes of Faye White and be around her at training, learning from girls like her who were playing week in and week out and representing England. It pushed me on mentally because I knew that I wanted that too. It kept me on my toes from an early age and showed me what was required to get to that level.
You’ve had a very decorated career. Won countless trophies, played professionally, represented England and Great Britain and scored a winning goal in a Champions League Final for the club you support. What’s your career highlight so far?
You make it sound like I’m retiring now! The goal in the Champions League final stands out. Hopefully we can go on and replicate that this season, especially because the Final is in London. The Champions League was special, it was Vic’s 20th anniversary at Arsenal Ladies and it was such a special year for the club. To win the Champions League that year was very fitting for Vic.
Alongside that the experience in the Olympics was special. We don’t know if it will ever happen again but to play in front of big crowds at Wembley, beating Brazil there. There were so many special moments in that short space of time. I just remember walking out at the stadium and hearing the National Anthem gave me goosebumps.
It was so loud and there was such a great atmosphere. That gave the team a real buzz and gave us the energy to beat a top Brazilian side. I spoke with some fans that were in the crowd that day and they said that the atmosphere was still excellent after the game on the train home. The walk down Wembley Way afterwards with the Brazilian fans and their drums made for an atmosphere they haven’t forgotten either.
Of course there are more than just club honours for you to play for this season. England are playing in Euro 2013 this summer. Who do you think are amongst the favourites?
You definitely have to look out for Sweden as the home nation, Pia Sundhage has just returned as manager after leading the US team where she won a lot of honours. They’ll want to do well on home soil. But I think French team is so talented at the moment, with individuals like Louisa Necib and Camille Abily they’re a very technical side. They showed how dangerous they can be at the Olympics and the last World Cup.
But England are in good shape too. We’ve just won the Cyprus Cup and the last time we did that, we went onto the Final in 2009. We’re hoping that’s a good omen and that we can go one step further this time. We want to be in that Final again and turn the silver medal we got last time to gold.
Looking further ahead Alex, you currently run a girls’ football academy with Puma and Kingston College. You also write a column for the Morning Star. Are you planning for a career after football in the future and if so, in which area?
The Academy came about because I had such a good experience in Arsenal’s academy and I wanted to put something back. I wanted to take girls who don’t quite make it with academies like Arsenal or other big clubs but to still give them the chance to train and play football every day. I go down and take coaching sessions myself and watch them play matches. The idea was just to give those girls the opportunity to play if they haven’t quite gone to a big club academy and giving them an education even if they don’t make it to the top level. But that was just a case of me wanting to give back.
I love doing the blogs and the radio stuff and I am looking to get into that a bit more for when I do have to hang up my boots. But I’m hoping that won’t be for a while yet!
Alex, thanks so much for speaking with Arseblog News today.
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Alex Scott wears the PUMA evoSPEED boot available now from www.prodirectsoccer.com. Alex is a speed junkie, but what’s in your nature? To find out which PUMA boot matches your game head to www.facebook.com/pumafootball