It is less than a month since the World Cup finished, and while for many fans the return of the men’s domestic game cannot come soon enough, for some of the players the break will not feel long enough. World Cups are magical, the hangover is not.
The odd thing is I think players who came home disappointed at how they did, like many of the England boys, will find it easier to get motivated than those who did well, like Arsenal’s trio of German World Cup winners. That is certainly what I’ve found.
I will never forget my first World Cup in 2007, or the return to action at home. It was our first in 12 years and we were expected to just make up the numbers. Instead we reached the quarter-finals after holding eventual winners Germany in the group stages. We were all on cloud nine. It was a fairy tale. We lost to the United States, then the world’s No 1 ranked team, but we had exceeded expectations, played in front of big crowds, and attracted media interest back home. We came back on a high, thinking the women’s game was really making progress in England.
What no one prepared us for, though, was the hangover. Unlike the men, we didn’t get to jet off on holiday. I think we had a week’s break then it was back to business. I remember that first game back for Arsenal like it was yesterday. A midweek game away to Watford on a freezing cold Thursday night and a treacherous pitch.
The crowd numbered about 100. A week previously I’d been playing a World Cup quarter-final in front of 30,000. I looked around at my team-mates in a changing room that could hardly fit us all in and I felt depressed. How was I supposed to motivate myself for this?
That was a major part of my decision to take up the offer to go and play in America the following season. I knew after playing at the World Cup I should push on. At the time the structure was not there at home. Now, after heavy investment from the Football Association, we have a strong, competitive FA Women’s Super League and players no longer feel the need to move abroad as I did after 2007.
I felt very different last summer after we had a disastrous European Championship. We had reached the final in 2009 and were desperate to go one better. When we picked up our silver medal I vowed I would never forget the feeling of walking past the trophy to collect my medal, then having to stand and clap the Germans as they lifted the cup. I was determined to remember it, and draw motivation from it, because I never wanted to experience that feeling again. Then we came bottom of the group and I could not wait to get back with Arsenal.
I wanted to prove to everyone who doubted us as a team and as individuals that they were wrong. I also could not wait to get the chance to put an England shirt back on. There was a determination to put the wrongs right from all the players in the team. The motivation was there. We’ve since won all our World Cup qualifiers and have almost secured a place in Canada next year. I’m sure the England lads will feel the same as they approach the new season with club and country.
Not that I expect the Germans to take long to get back into the swing of things. Someone once told me: “You don’t stop till you have a gold medal round your neck”, but I disagree. You want it again and again. You want to replicate that winning feeling. The German team have tasted winning now and it would not surprise me if they win the Euros in two years’ time. The motivation for a player is always about winning.
Alex Scott plays for Arsenal Ladies and has won 114 England caps. She played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups.