By Tony Leighton
England’s new centurion Jill Scott found it unbelievable that she was set to win her 100th international cap as she prepared to step out to face Australia at the CFA International Tournament in China on Tuesday.
But the 28-year-old Manchester City midfielder was perhaps the only person in the women’s game to feel any disbelief that – just nine years after making her debut – she was about to reach the prestigious landmark.
Head coach Mark Sampson led a chorus of plaudits for the former Sunderland and Everton player, with the words: “Jill is a world-class footballer and a very important character, as well as a big player in our team.”
In the dressing room ahead of the 1-0 win against the Matildas, Sampson pinned on the notice board a list of the now eight English women who have passed the 100 international caps mark.
Scott’s response? “I couldn’t believe my name was up there with those legends,” she said. “Players like Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey, who I’d idolised as a kid and then couldn’t believe I was playing with when I made my England debut.”
As fate would have it, on that debut day for a starry-eyed Scott – who was sent on as a late substitute by the then national coach Hope Powell – Smith hit a hat-trick and Yankey scored England’s other goal in a 4-0 win against the Netherlands.
That occasion was of course one of the biggest days of Scott’s playing career, but many further highlights have followed on a 100-cap journey that has included three World Cup tournaments and two European Championships.
“Just being selected for the 2007 World Cup in China was massive,” recalled the midfielder. “I’d got less than ten caps at the time so Hope took a chance on me, but I played in every game and that was a great experience.
“Being named in the 2011 World Cup ‘Team of the Tournament’ is another big memory, and then after the disappointment of not getting through our group at Euro 2013 it was just fantastic to win a bronze medal at this year’s World Cup.”
Scott is now eyeing Euro 2017 gold for England, though she is setting no personal targets.
“I’ll go on working hard to keep my place in the team,” she said. “And if we get it right we can be in contention.”