Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the Lionesses pre-Euro 2022 Final media conference and heard from England legend Jill Scott, who played in the nation’s previous Euro Final in 2009 (29/7/22).
Above: Jill Scott speaking to the media today at the Lionesses’ South-West London base. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.
“I’m actually gutted that on Sunday it will all be over, we’ve been having such a great time.”Jill Scott, England.
Jill Scott is a legend of English football and an absolute stalwart of the Lionesses. With 160 caps behind her, Scott has been an integral part of the squad for this tournament, coming on as a substitute at vital times to transfer her experience to the team in order to aid them in getting over the line.
Scott first played for the Lionesses in 2003, and six years later was part of the England team that made it to their most recent major final – Euro 2009 in Finland. A game that ended in a painful 6-2 loss to Sunday’s opponents Germany.
“When you speak about the 2009 Final, we knew that Germany were ahead of us in a lot of ways in terms of where football was in their country compared to ours. It was always going to be so difficult to win that game.
“Where the game is at now, it’s a different place. I think the 2009 Final against Germany had about 15,000 people in the ground. Now there will be 90,000 on Sunday. In 2009 players had their first central contracts. Now everyone is professional in the WSL, training full-time. It’s like night and day. But we can’t forget everyone who came before us and wear the shirt.”
“Now, we’ve made quarter-finals, semi-finals. A lot of money has been invested. Sunday is for everyone – people who went before us in the team. Women’s football writers often do it for the love of the game too – if we can win the tournament on Sunday, they can have their hands on the trophy too.”
Scott spoke openly about the emotions of seeing such incredible support for the team throughout the competition. “We’ve seen the crowds all tournament – 70,000 at Old Trafford for the opener, 90,000 on Sunday at Wembley. It gives me goosebumps just saying it. The fans have just been amazing.
“It’s a defining moment for our sport. It’s hard when you are in it, because you just go from one thing to the next – meeting, training session, match. We don’t see the noise on the outside. Young boys and girls are coming up to us at the hotel asking for pictures.
“We wanted to inspire the nation and provide more opportunities for young girls and young boys, give women opportunities to work in the sport. We’ve ticked all those boxes so far, I think. There’s just one more box to go now!
“It’s been really difficult not to get emotional. Just seeing so many people at our games, everyone hanging around to see us. There have been a lot of special moments. We can’t thank the fans enough, these are memories we’ll take away for life. We have to have logical minds on Sunday though and focus on the task in hand.
“It will be a gamechanger if we win on Sunday. It’s hard because I’d be lying if I said the whole thing hasn’t crossed my mind. You can’t help but dare to dream.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s final specifically, Scott knows that Germany will give the Lionesses a challenge on a higher level to those they have faced already.
“When Germany were playing France in the semi-final, we knew both teams were fantastic and it would make a tough final. It’s another top opposition and tough game. We have to focus on ourselves. The girls have been incredible, totally out of this world.
“Germany and ourselves have been the most consistent teams in this tournament. Germany are so physical, so well drilled. They like the one-on-one duels and like to get you in on those battles as they believe they will win them. We expect a tough test, but we can take a lot of confidence in how we’ve been playing.”
Of course, with England taking on Germany, there will always be talk (and fears) of a penalty shoot-out to decide the winners. Scott is calm about any prospect of that.
“We’ve had all our processes set in place for months now. I feel we’re the best-prepared team here, we’ve prepared for every possible eventuality.”
It is absolutely clear that there is no fear in this Lionesses team. There is a sense of belief in their ability and a real calmness instilled by head coach Sarina Wiegman.
“Sarina has been brilliant. She is an incredible women. She is very logical. She keeps us focused. I don’t think she realises how good she is. Against Spain, she was so calm on the sideline, she had all her processes in place. She is the driving force behind us being in the final.”
Allied to the sense of calmness is the really tight nature of the players. “We have a special group, we all get on so well. Sometimes I sit there and think: ‘God, there’s 15 years between us,’ when I think about the likes of Lauren Hemp!
“For me, playing alongside Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway for the past eight years at Manchester City, I’m just glad that the whole world is able to now see what I’ve seen for the past eight years with them. I’ve played with the best players in the world in training everyday.”
“Millie Bright blocked me today in training today and nearly broke my arm. I turned round and told her to make sure she does that on Sunday. I don’t think anyone has got past her this tournament. She’s won every single header. She has been so consistent for Chelsea and now with England. She always breaks through barriers to get herself on the pitch and she is now getting her rewards. The plaudits are so well deserved.”
Looking ahead, at the age of 35, Scott knows that time is not on her side in terms of her playing career, but will wait until the dust settles after the final to make any decisions.
“I said that I wanted to give absolutely everything at this tournament. It’s taken a lot of energy over the past three months. I don’t know. I’ll see what this week looks like, and some decisions will be made.”