For somebody who claims to not get nervous about addressing hundreds of thousands on stay TV or strolling out on to a soccer pitch in entrance of a crowd of 80,000, Alex Scott appears a little bit anxious about what an interview with the FT would possibly contain.

“I’m excited and may’t imagine I’ve been picked,” she writes in a WhatsApp message earlier than we meet. When she arrives for our interview, across the nook from Arsenal, the membership the place she spent most of her twenty years enjoying soccer, she listens thoughtfully as I define what I hope to debate together with her, and nods enthusiastically once I supply to ship her examples of comparable interviews.

Scott has no should be modest. She gained 20 trophies and 140 England caps as a right-back, and her appearances as a TV analyst on the males’s World Cup in Russia this summer time have helped to interrupt the mould within the male-dominated world of soccer punditry. Sitting alongside the likes of Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand, Scott gained reward for her considerate and rigorous method.

“Alex Scott utilizing information and proof to current an argument throughout the half-time punditry. It’ll by no means catch on,” quipped one tweet.

A few months later, when the brand new Premier League season bought underneath method, Scott grew to become the primary feminine analyst on Sky Sports activities’ flagship Tremendous Sunday programme. Though she retired as a participant earlier this 12 months, her profile has by no means been larger.

The identical factor might be stated of ladies’s soccer, which is having fun with elevated media protection and better pay for these enjoying professionally within the flourishing Girls’s Tremendous League. But it surely wasn’t all the time that method. When Scott began to interrupt into the Arsenal crew as a 16-year-old, she says she earned £100 a recreation if she performed, £50 if she was introduced on as an alternative and £25 if she remained on the bench. At round this time, Arsenal purchased a brand new striker referred to as Thierry Henry from Juventus for an estimated price of £11m.

Scott after successful the FA Cup with Arsenal in 2016 © Getty Photos

She reels off an inventory of jaw-dropping examples of life within the then semi-professional ladies’s recreation. Arsenal Women, because the crew have been referred to as on the time, inherited saggy, hand-me-down equipment from the boys’s crew — worlds away from the fitted shirts and shorts which are specifically designed for them by main sports activities manufacturers in the present day.

For Scott, there was one helpful knock-on profit: she can be given boots belonging to Arsenal’s star Dutch winger Marc Overmars as a result of they have been each a dimension 5. And she or he seems to be again with disbelief at the truth that, when she was chosen to play for England on the ladies’s World Cup in 2007, the gamers used to satisfy in a park within the evenings to coach collectively. “It’s like, what the heck?”

To assist the feminine gamers fund themselves, Arsenal’s equipment man Vic Akers, who arrange the crew in 1987, organized for a lot of to get jobs on the membership. Scott labored within the laundry, washing the first-team gamers’ shirts after they completed coaching. She whips out her diary and reveals me a treasured {photograph} of her teenage self within the Arsenal laundry subsequent to a pile of folded T-shirts, arm in arm with grinning membership legend Ian Wright. She nonetheless can’t fairly imagine the previous striker is now basically a colleague.

“Ian Wright was considered one of my greatest sporting heroes, and now I sit alongside him and discuss on TV. However I was within the Arsenal, washing his equipment.”

Scott, who was awarded an MBE for companies to soccer in 2017, believes that attitudes in the direction of the ladies’s recreation in Britain reworked after the 2007 World Cup, when the crew reached the quarter-finals and attracted spectacular TV audiences. “Unexpectedly there was this buzz . . . Off the again of that, change began to essentially occur.”

Everybody [else] was there with their mother and father, and I used to be simply this little tough one off the streets, so blissful to be in that surroundings

She credit Hope Powell, the supervisor of England at the moment, with persuading the Soccer Affiliation to spend money on feminine gamers as soon as the event had completed. In 2009, for the primary time, the England ladies’s crew acquired annual contracts from the FA, price £10,000 every.

In the present day, gamers within the UK’s Girls’s Tremendous League are likely to earn about £30,000 a 12 months from their golf equipment (a world away from the celebrities of the boys’s Premier League), with an extra £30,000 going to gamers within the England squad.

Alex Scott photographed at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium © Nina Manandhar

Scott shows no bitterness concerning the decrease rewards on supply for her technology. “I wanted that work as a result of I wanted that cash to outlive,” she says. “I attempted to have a look at it as a optimistic that I’d watch the boys prepare after which are available in and wash their equipment. The women don’t want to think about any of that stuff any extra. Actually, you might be skilled.”

Rising up in a single-parent household the place her mum juggled jobs to offer for her and her brother, Scott says she knew that she needed to make one thing of herself however had no thought how. She fell in love with soccer early, enjoying in what she affectionately refers to as “the cage” with different youngsters on her property in Poplar, east London.

“For me, that cage represents the place I had desires,” she says. “You needed to battle and earn your home. That set me as much as be the footballer I’m in the present day. [It] was every little thing to me. I dreamed of being one thing and of getting outdoors of the East Finish in that soccer cage. After which I bought fortunate.”

She “bought fortunate” when her brother was attributable to play in a soccer event and considered one of his teammates dropped out. He requested her to fill in on the final minute, and a referee, recognizing Scott’s expertise, prompt that she be a part of the Arsenal ladies’s crew. She was eight years outdated. “I didn’t have a clue and was identical to, ‘No, I simply need to play within the soccer cage, I’m probably not bothered,’ ” she says, laughing at how she practically handed over the chance on the time.

Undeterred, the referee spoke to Akers, who was to change into an influential determine in Scott’s life. She was signed on the spot at her first trial and began attending coaching classes 3 times every week, taking the 277 bus on her personal for the 40-minute journey to Arsenal’s outdated Highbury stadium. “It was the primary cease all the way in which to the final,” she recollects. “My mum would meet me on the opposite facet. I by no means thought something of it. My mum knew that it was a method out for me as properly — of getting off the streets.

“Everybody [else] was there with their mother and father,” she provides. “The mother and father have been pushing their youngsters, and I used to be simply this little tough one off the streets, not asking for a lot however simply so blissful to be in that surroundings.”

Scott has all the time been up for tackling a problem. As a toddler she underwent three years of speech remedy attributable to listening to issues. But it nonetheless comes as a shock to listen to her say that she felt no nerves when she took up her function as a pundit for the BBC at one of many world’s greatest sporting occasions. “One in all my favorite quotes is from Billie Jean King: stress is a privilege. As a result of it’s. You’ll be able to sink or swim, and simply use it and assume: that is my second.

A part of the BBC commentary crew at an FA Cup match at West Bromwich Albion earlier this 12 months © Getty Photos

“There are occasions I stumble over my phrases and my speech isn’t the very best,” she continues. “Once I do, I giggle at myself as a result of I do know that that lady from speech remedy is definitely sitting on TV in entrance of hundreds of thousands, being paid to talk. It’s mad.”

Inevitably, she has confronted prejudice and misogyny. One columnist prompt that getting ladies professionals to touch upon the likes of Messi and Ronaldo on the World Cup was like asking netball gamers to touch upon NBA basketball. Whereas Scott was speaking on TV about an England recreation in September, former Chelsea striker Leon Knight launched right into a rant on Twitter: “Do u know what number of f**king ballers their [sic] is with out jobs that would discuss correctly on sure occasions that’s gone on within the recreation . . . they bought this f**king lady with weave in speaking soccer.”

Once I learn the quote out loud to Scott, she doesn’t even flinch. “I truly assume in that recreation I didn’t have my weave in. In order that simply made me giggle. And I believed — how unhappy.”

I ask how she responds to the blatant sexism (simply this week, Ada Hegerberg, the primary ladies’s winner of the distinguished Ballon d’Or, was requested by a presenter on the awards ceremony if she knew the best way to twerk). She acknowledges that there’s a lot additional to go however is resolutely upbeat. “I feel we’re on the cusp of one thing particular with ladies’s soccer on this nation. I’ve been a part of the method, pushing for higher contracts for ladies and sticking up for higher requirements. And now I could be so proud, carrying on as a little bit of a pioneer in a very completely different function.

“I need to get to that point the place I’m not even considered the feminine pundit — I’m only a pundit.”

Madison Marriage is the FT’s accounting and tax correspondent

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