Alex Scott: Being dropped for the Mexico game was a big test of my smiley personality


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The Independent Football

No one ever really talks about emotions and football in the same sentence. Maybe it is because football is such a male-dominated sport and talking about emotions is not the done thing. But when you are in a squad of 23 women it can get emotional.

At a World Cup people assume you are on a constant high. However, at times there can be real lows. The way to keep yourself level-headed is to try not to get too up or too down, to maintain a regular positive state of mind.

In a short space of time your character is tested in many different ways. For example, this is my third World Cup and for the first time I was sitting as a sub watching my team-mates play against Mexico. Then a few days later I was starting against Colombia.

When you are in a bubble like we are here emotions can be magnified and having some time to switch off and focus on “real life” helps to put them into perspective.

What with losing our first game, then winning twice, and the team changing for each game, all of us are having our character really tested. How players deal with these emotions can make or break a team. The biggest test is how you react to disappointment.

Mark Sampson, the England manager, names his team two days before the game to allow players time to process emotions, and then to work on game plans going into the game. Mark pulled me to tell me the news that I was not going to start the Mexico game and I thanked him for telling me. I am always apprehensive when the manager pulls me in, so this emotion was nothing knew; however, the realisation I was not going to be playing was new territory for me. I have missed a few matches since establishing myself in the team a decade ago, but not such a big one.

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I would say I’m an outgoing and lively sort of character who always has a smile on my face, but how do you smile when you have just been told you are not going to be playing? How am I going to be the best right-back in this tournament if I am not playing? How am I going to cope with telling family and friends back home the news? How am I still going to try and remain the upbeat character that I am around my team-mates when I have all these different emotions running through my mind?

No one can really say anything to you to make you feel better because the decision has been made and there isn’t anything that is going to change it. You feel a sense of disappointment that you are letting family and friends down at home, but it is always nice to ring for a reassuring chat.

 The thing with mums is that they try to say the right thing, bless them, but sometimes there are just no right words.

“Mum, I’m not playing this game.” Her response: “Oh well, never mind, babe.” My mum is from east London so you can imagine the cockney accent, I’m sure. “Never mind,” she continued. What am I even supposed to say to that? “It will be OK. Cheer up, babe,” she added.

I know it’s a mum’s job to try and make things better, but sometimes they just don’t get the emotion you are going through.

In tournaments the games come very quickly. I came on towards the end of the Mexico match so I felt a part of it a little, but like everyone else you soon have to focus on the next game.

This time I was back in the team, so it was easier, but the girls who played against Mexico, then did not start against Colombia, went from the high of winning to the low of not being selected within 24 hours. It is a rapid cycle of emotions but you have to pick yourself up for the team.

People deal with it in their own way, but one thing is certain: this squad is very much one that wants each other to do well. Even as a sub I felt that as we stood together, arms-across-shoulders along with the staff, to sing the national anthem before the Mexico game.

Having now been away for almost a month, a little surprise came at the right time. Adam, our performance psychology coach, had organised a personal note from home for each of us.

After a team talk from Mark on finding that deep motivation to succeed in this World Cup, he sent us off to our room to have a think before we met for dinner. What we didn’t know was that while we were meeting, Adam had arranged for letters and pictures sent from family and loved ones back home to be laid out in our rooms letting us know how proud they are of us.

I am not the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve, so I don’t buy a sob story, but I surprised myself at how mine got me. In no way would I have thought that receiving a few simple pictures from home would make me tear up and fill me with so much emotion. It was a strong tool and one players responded to well. It is always nice to know how loved you are and how proud you have made people. As a nation do we voice this enough? I don’t think so.

We won against Colombia, and it was nice to hear Trevor Sinclair had been complimentary about me and my “engine” on BBC TV, but I now have to focus again on the next match. The roller coaster is on its upward journey now, towards the peak, having progressed out of the group stages.

We have moved to Ottawa, with Norway the next team on our hit list. We are determined not to let history repeat itself by getting knocked out immediately after the group stage as we have done in the past. Come Monday we hope to be on our way to Vancouver having given Norway the “hell of a beating” their newspaper stated they will be doing to us.