STRICTLY’S Alex Scott is delighted to be inspiring young girls – because she had no women footballers to look up to when she was a kid.
The former Arsenal and England defender says her only role models were mum Carol McKee and legendary Gunners striker lan Wright.
But after rising to the top of the game, the 34-year-old is now forging a successful broadcasting career, even setting her sights on succeeding Gary Lineker as host of Match Of The Day.
She told The Sun on Sunday: “The part of the job I love is when young girls tell me they are watching me follow my dreams and thinking, ‘I can do that’.
“It still blows my mind. When I think of role models, I think of my mum. She is my strength, my rock. Her work ethic is incredible.
“I didn’t have anyone in the sport or football world to look up to. I loved Ian Wright because I saw him on TV.
“I love the fact girls have more visibility now. Not just across sport, in all industries.”
Ahead of her unveiling as part of Strictly’s line-up for series 18, Alex’s codename on the show was Supergirl. And she did the moniker justice in last night’s contest, which saw her dance a quickstep to the Frank Sinatra song I Get a Kick Out of You.
Alex grew up with her mum and brother in a council flat on an estate in Poplar, East London, after her dad left the family when she was young.
Her sporting career began when she was discovered by an Arsenal scout while playing in a local “cage” with her brother and his mates.
Alex, who played for England’s Lionesses 140 times, last year became the first female pundit for men’s Premier League games on Sky Sports.
She has made the transition to TV presenting after stepping away from live commentary to focus on shows such as Sky’s Goals On Sunday.
And she would love to follow in Gary’s footsteps on Match Of The Day. She says with a smile: “When he’s had enough, I’d put my name in that hat for sure.”
Gary has come under scrutiny after his £1.75million salary was unveiled, though he has now volunteered to take a pay cut.
The sum was revealed in a dossier that exposed a huge gender pay gap at the heart of the corporation.
While Alex holds back from commenting on anyone in particular, she agrees “things could be better” when it comes to BBC equal pay.
She said: “I don’t sit there and ask what the other guys are earning. When I negotiate, it’s down to me, and I don’t compare myself with others.
“But yes, I agree things could be better.
“The fact those salaries have been highlighted is a sign of how things are changing too.
“As women, we feel more empowered. We should not be scared to speak out.”
In past years, Strictly has been caught in a racism storm after black or mixed-race celebrities were voted out first by the public.
But Alex, who has Irish and Jamaican heritage, says she was determined not to let those fears spoil her Strictly experience.
Alex Scott spotted with Strictly dance partner Neil Jones[/caption]
She said: “That has been brought up in the past.
“But I’m on the show this year, and is that a thought in my head, that it’s going to happen? No, not at all.
“I’m going in to Strictly to have fun. I still can’t believe I’m actually doing it. I tend to look for positive things.
“Alesha Dixon, Louis Smith and Ore Oduba all won so hopefully I’ll be in their camp.”
Taking a break from rehearsals with Strictly co-star Michelle Visage[/caption]
She added: “I want to be in the show at the end because I want to do every dance. We all swap messages about the dances on a WhatsApp group.
“I don’t want to be reading those messages while sitting at home.
“I’m competitive but I also think that if you go into this thinking, ‘I have to win’, you’re not going to have fun.
“I’ve been in a football bubble for so long that I wanted to do something different. I’m like a big kid at the moment because I get to dance all day.
“The costumes are lovely too. And that’s another thing — I want to show young girls you can be sporty but also have a glamorous side.
“I’m going to love being transformed every week. There’s nothing I won’t wear. I’m ready for whatever they throw at me.”
But fame has a price. She accepts that now she is on Strictly, people will want to know about her love life. She has refused to talk about her partner, saying she prefers to keep that part of her life private.
Alex was also hit by an online hate campaign and got death threats from trolls who took against her for appearing on TV giving opinions on football.
The abuse coincided with her first season as a pundit around two years ago.
She kept it secret for months, fearing her career would be torpedoed by sexist bosses if she was portrayed as a victim. But as the abuse spiralled out of control, Alex struggled to cope and even considered quitting the job she had fought so hard for.
She said: “I had all of it — for being a woman on TV, for being a woman of colour on TV, that I’m ticking a box, death threats. I didn’t speak to anyone about what was happening because I didn’t know what to do.
“I felt so lonely. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me when I was trying to break into the industry.
“I didn’t want to give away anything that could be used against me. So I hid it. I began to struggle and reached the point where I was like, ‘I need to say something’.
“At my lowest point I was always questioning whether I was doing the right thing, thinking, ‘What am I doing?’
“It was really starting to affect my personality. I was questioning whether to quit the job.
“But that’s when I spoke out and realised the power in that.
“I got a lot of support, which was really encouraging. If it happened again, I would definitely call the police.”
One of the first people to voice his support for Alex was Gary, who told her: “I think the vast majority of folk think you’re doing a great job.”
Alex said: “Yes, Gary was really supportive, so was everyone in the football community. None of them had known about it before.
“If I had spoken out at the time to ask for help, things could have been different.”
The situation has now died down, but Alex says she still sees messages from supporters who appear surprised that she knows what she is talking about.
She said: “I have never been about just putting a woman in a job. You have to earn it. It has to be the right person for a job, whether it’s a man or a woman.
“But people are still so surprised when they watch me, saying things like, ‘She’s done her research’. And I’m surprised because I’m there to do a job.
“The BBC are paying me, I am the pundit.
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“As a footballer, I wouldn’t turn up to a World Cup unfit or underprepared, so it’s the same with this job.
“I wouldn’t turn up and not know what I’m talking about.
“So when people say, ‘She’s done her homework’, I’m like, ‘Shouldn’t it be like that in any job?’”
Truly great Scott
1984: Born in East London.
1992: Spotted by Arsenal scout playing in an East London football cage with her brother and his friends. Signs for The Gunners.
2004: England debut against the Netherlands.
2006: Part of Arsenal team that won League and FA Cup.
2007: Key figure in the Arsenal “quadruple” team that won the Champions League, FA Cup, Premier League, Premier League Cup.
2009: Joins Boston Breakers in US league Women’s Professional Soccer.
2012: Rejoins Arsenal. Represents Great Britain at the London Olympics, fulfilling a childhood dream to play at Wembley.
2016: Captains Arsenal to FA Cup win over Chelsea.
2017: Retires from international football after 140 appearances and 12 goals. Awarded MBE for services to the game with Chelsea’s Karen Carney.
2018: Retires from club football after 218 appearances and 15 goals. Last match is in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Man City.
Turns her focus to TV, co-presenting on Match Of The Day Kickabout.
JUNE-JULY: First female pundit at a men’s World Cup for the BBC when the tournament is held in Russia.
AUGUST: First female pundit on Sky Sports’ footie coverage, joining the Super Sunday team.
2019: Covers Women’s World Cup in France, is new co-host of Sky Sports’ Goals On Sunday and joins Strictly.
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