It hardly feels incongruous to find Manchester City and England midfielder Jill Scott in a sports centre in Newcastle during half-term coaching 60 schoolchildren for Prince Harry’s grass-roots campaign Made By Sport. After all, she has run soccer schools for years. The JS8 coaching camps are part of a nest egg also encompassing motivational speaking – “Success is the problem, failure is the formula’, reads the latest keynote script – as Scott looks to life after football.
“People keep talking about coaching and retiring’ I think they’re telling us it’s nearly time,” she chuckles. “[Coaching] is something I’ll definitely go into, but I don’t know in what capacity. When I joined Manchester City, they looked at a plan in terms of what you want to do next. It got mentioned from the age of 26. It does cross my mind because I know I’m not going to be able to go forever. It’s probably time to pass the baton on in a couple of years. I’m 33 now, still feeling good. I wouldn’t want to stop now and think, ‘what if I’d gone another year?’ I think I’ll know.”
What does feel incongruous is to even discuss retirement with Scott given that there is so much left to do internationally. This month brings the SheBelieves Cup, in which England will encounter the United States for the first time since their 2-1 World Cup semi-final defeat. Then Scott’s attention will turn to the Olympics and the home Euros in 2021.
Phil Neville has earmarked Scott as a possible for even the next World Cup, in 2023, by which time she will be 36. Could she do it? She covered more miles than any other England player in France and is second in the fitness tests only to Lucy Bronze. Scott was 12 years older than Georgia Stanway, then 20 and the youngest Lioness at the tournament.
“People always say, ‘You’re naturally fit’, but it takes a lot to keep up with the 18-year-olds. I do eat a lot of calories. I’m quite naturally thin, so I have to make sure I’m fuelled all the time. People always go, ‘That must be the best thing in the world, just to be constantly eating food’. But honestly, it’s really not – I hate it sometimes. You feel sick but you’re still trying to get those calories on board because I cover a lot of ground.”
In three games a week she can cover 22 miles. “You’ve just got to look after yourself. You can’t get away with anything now. The last glass of wine I had was probably one with my Christmas dinner.”
SheBelieves will be England’s first camp with Dawn Scott, their new physical performance manager, whom Scott has encountered previously at international level. “She was hard,” Jill Scott says. “So hard. We didn’t actually have many resources, because it’s going back 13 years, but she always found a way. She made us do training sessions in coats in the middle of summer, because she knew we were going to China and we had to acclimatise. We had running programmes that you thought you were going to be sick at the end of.”
Back then, England would distribute their own fitness plans to players to complete outside of camps, balancing their club careers with other jobs.
Scott would have two club sessions a week before a Sunday game. “You used to have three hard-running sessions that you’d have to do on your own, on a field with some cones. You’d think to yourself, if I miss this last set, nobody would really know. It’s freezing cold, it’s raining, I can go home. But I would never be able to go home and settle if I hadn’t finished that last set.”
Scott estimates she covered around 50 miles at the World Cup, and suggests now that “we probably fell a little bit short on the physical side” compared to the US team. Dawn Scott was part of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s backroom staff, and her move to England was a coup for Neville at a time when his side had won just twice in eight matches. This will be their first international camp since November.
What is it like, mentally, after a World Cup? “This one was probably the hardest one and I’d openly say that,” Scott says. “I really struggled. You’ve got to think: from every single day since qualifying, you wake up and you’re like, I’m going to give my all because we’ve got a World Cup coming up, and suddenly, in one game, in one moment, your dreams are taken away from you. People call it a World Cup hangover, but you feel like you just need a break from football. But you can’t because the next thing is around the corner.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appTen days after the World Cup, Scott was back in pre-season at City. “I went into club training and the first day was physical tests, and I felt like I didn’t know if I wanted to cry,” she laughs. “You’re just absolutely drained, and I recognised I needed more time off.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appDid she speak to a psychologist? “Yeah, at City. She helped us a lot. She just listened and recognised that I needed a little bit more of a break, and then I was fine. I think a lot of the girls were feeling like that.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appShe describes the subsequent run of internationals as “another knock and another knock. It’s just trying to get yourself out of it. It’s a massive disappointment – for any player, but especially for the older ones. They probably know that’s your last World Cup. But I think we’re all in a good position now. We’ve managed to get ourselves back on that even keel. It’s an exciting time for England”.
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