Jill Scott recalls that when she was preparing to come on for her England debut in 2006, wearing moulds rather than the requested studs, boss Hope Powell joked that if she slipped on the pitch, she would never play for the team again.
As it transpired, having come through that late cameo against Holland at the age of 19, which she says saw her “shuffle around” to ensure she stayed on her feet, Scott did then go on to win 160 further England caps – more than any other Lioness save Fara Williams.
Her popularity both within the England squad and across the country was perhaps clearest during the Lionesses’ historic run to their Euro 2022 title this summer. Scott never started, but each time the midfielder stepped on as a sub she was greeted by a roar from the crowd, perhaps sensing the impending retirement of a long-standing favourite.
The Sunderland native, who scored 27 goals over her 16-year career, featured for England at four World Cups and four European Championships, also representing Great Britain at two Olympic Games.
Right, we’re not crying. I promised myself.— Jill Scott MBE (@JillScottJS8) August 23, 2022
Her stellar playing career has also seen her get her hands on a multitude of silverware at club level, with Everton and, in particular, Manchester City.
Scott had just moved to Everton from her hometown side when she was brought on to replace hat-trick hero Kelly Smith in the 4-0 World Cup qualifying victory over the Dutch in August 2006.
Powell was sufficiently impressed by the youngster to include her in her squad for the tournament in China the following year. Scott was part of the starting XI from the second game and scored in the third, a 6-1 victory over Argentina, before the team exited in the quarter-finals.
Two years later she was a key figure as Powell’s side reached the final of the Euros in Finland, heading the extra-time winner when England got past Holland 2-1 in the last four.
Scott then netted twice at the 2011 World Cup in Germany, including a memorable strike in a quarter-final against France which the team lost on penalties, and Powell subsequently named her in her GB side that got to the last eight of the London 2012 Olympics.
Euro 2013 in Sweden proved a disappointing competition for Scott and England, and their last with Powell in charge, with the team making a group-stage exit, before they then went on a sequence of reaching three successive major-tournament semi-finals.
The Lionesses, with Mark Sampson at the helm, came third at the World Cup in Canada in 2015, the year Scott would subsequently become an England centurion.
She was then part of the runs at the 2017 Euros and, under Phil Neville, the 2019 World Cup that were both halted in the last four by defeat to the eventual winners, Holland and the United States respectively.
The latter tournament included Scott becoming the standalone player to have made most the World Cup appearances for England, surpassing Peter Shilton as her tally moved to 18 in a match against Cameroon.
She got to 149 appearances overall in March 2020, then had to wait almost a year, thanks to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, before finally hitting the milestone 150 in a friendly against Northern Ireland overseen by interim boss Hege Riise.
At that point, Scott – having won a glut of trophies with Manchester City after joining them in late 2013, including the 2016 Women’s Super League title – had recently made a loan move back to Everton, the club she had secured her first FA Cup triumph with back in 2008.
A motivation in her decision to move was her desire to be a part of GB’s campaign at the Tokyo Olympics that summer, and the call paid off as Riise included her in a squad that again were quarter-finalists.
161 caps.16 magical years.#Lionesses legend @JillScottJS8 has announced her retirement from football. Congrats on a wonderful career, Jill! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/0T86uHlSJg— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 23, 2022
Scott also opted to go out on loan from City in the second half of 2021-22, joining Aston Villa, ahead of England hosting the Euros – a successful season that saw her get the nod from Sarina Wiegman for her eighth major tournament as a Lioness.
Wiegman substituted the 5ft 11in footballer on four times across the Lionesses’ perfect run to the trophy.
Scott left City permanently in the summer of 2022 after 194 appearances and eight-and-a-half years with the WSL side, winning four league cups, three Women’s FA Cups and one WSL title, with the club planning to honour her services at a match this upcoming season.
At the end of 2019, Scott was appointed an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for her services to football, but the pandemic did not allow her to attend the ceremony—forcing her to pick up her award from the post office.
Team-mates on her popular BBC podcast, Jill Scott’s Coffee Club, have said she seems to be a particular favourite of Prince William’s, the two sharing an ongoing yellow card joke after Scott accidentally took out the royal in a side-tackle during a charity match.
And when speaking to City’s official website about her MBE, Scott said: “When I received a call from the Cabinet Office, I was really worried I had done something wrong — that I hadn’t paid a parking fine or something like that.
Royal Mail car park isn’t quite the same as Buckingham Palace but so happy to get my MBE. Thanks to everyone that has supported me on this crazy journey 😃 #proud#honouredpic.twitter.com/szAxpD1tir— Jill Scott MBE (@JillScottJS8) November 10, 2021
“I was in shock. I was with my partner, Shelly, shopping for our Christmas tree and I think I dropped half the baubles. That didn’t go down too well. I was just in shock.
“I feel very honoured, but it also seems surreal. I’m just a young girl from Sunderland who fell in love with a game called football. Hopefully it can be an acceptance on behalf of all women’s football.”
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