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Retired Lioness Jill Scott would challenge any detractor who claims Chelsea boss Emma Hayes does not have what it takes to coach in the Premier League.
Scott earned 161 senior caps for England before announcing her playing career had come to a close in the aftermath of the Lionesses’ triumph at the Euros last summer, and now harbours coaching ambitions of her own.
While she is delighted to see more women pursuing coaching careers, the I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! winner has observed a troubling trend.
“I think Emma Hayes deserves to have her name put in the running for any job, if I’m being honest,” she told the PA news agency. “I think that’s rightfully so.
“The only thing I don’t like is when sometimes they say, oh, a female manager could go to the men’s game but then they’re suddenly looking at the leagues below, and, like, why does it have to be the leagues below? I think she’s good enough to coach at any level.
“But, again, it’s going to take a breakthrough of somebody doing it for attitudes to change towards it. The first step is getting somebody into that, and you know what, I’m sure Emma is 100 per cent happy in the women’s game. She’s absolutely smashing it at Chelsea at the minute.
“But I think eventually somebody will do it, and then it won’t even be a subject that we’ll talk about, because hopefully it becomes the norm.”
For now, Scott is quite content to impart her wisdom at youth and grassroots levels, hoping her own story will inspire others to play the game that – at one point – seemed an unlikely career. Ten years ago, recalled the one-time Women’s Super League winner with Manchester City, the women’s game was at a point where she was not even training with the team full-time.
The two-time Olympian is working with Starling Bank, who have launched a £200,000 kit, equipment and coaching giveaway, earmarked for girls and women in the grassroots game. The campaign follows a study of 1031 grassroots clubs, commissioned by the bank, which revealed the cost of football kit is the biggest barrier in recruiting new players.
Separate research uncovered that girls’ sides face greater financial challenges, with 14 per cent of parents of daughters helping their clubs find sponsorship compared to 11 per cent with sons, noting parents are also more likely to ask their daughters to contribute pocket money towards training.
That is, if they can even find somewhere to play.
Friday marks six months since Scott and her Euro 2022-winning squad penned an open letter to then-Conservative leadership hopefuls Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, urging the government to ensure girls had more – and more equal – access to sport.
Citing an FA statistic that only 63 per cent of schools currently offer girls’ football in PE lessons, the letter demanded that Westminster ensure every girl has access to a minimum of two hours of PE per week, and called for more investment and support for female PE teachers.
Scott, who turns 36 on Thursday, is no stranger to campaigning. As a youngster, she fondly recalled, “a teacher actually formed a girls’ football team on the back of me saying I wanted to play football.”
The lifelong Sunderland supporter admits achieving the letter’s ambitions will be “a process”, but was encouraged by what she saw at an FA meeting this week.
Still, she agreed that in 2023 – six months before the Lionesses could lift their first World Cup – the state of play for girls in England leaves much to be desired.
“It’s crazy,” Scott added. “To be honest, I say to myself, why don’t girls get that opportunity to play football? When you say that sentence out loud, why actually don’t they? It should just be boys play football, girls play football, and the same across any sport.”
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