Jill Scott MBE says her induction into the WSL Hall of Fame is a mark of how far the women’s game has grown as she recalls fond memories from a trophy-laden career spanning 16 years.
Scott helped make history during England’s Euro 2022 final win over Germany. Subbed on in the 89th minute, she yelled a stream of expletives at her midfield opponents that not only created social media adoration for the 36-year-old but catapulted Scott into the spotlight, becoming a pundit, TV personality and even winning that year’s series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Opting to retire after the Euros final, Scott had spent more than a decade and a half playing domestic football in England, the latter 11 years in the WSL, turning out for Everton, Manchester City and Aston Villa, making 175 appearances in the competition and scoring 22 goals.
She won every possible domestic accolade during her career, including four FA Cups, three league cups and one WSL title, marking her as one of greats and earning her a place in the Hall of Fame.
“The WSL, it’s been such a big part of my life; dedicated my life to it, really; getting a result on a weekend was literally everything. So it just brings back so many good memories, kind of stacked into this little trophy. But just really, really honoured,” Scott explained.
“Just to have your name alongside fantastic players who, over the years, were my heroes, really. Even when we played in England together, I would question why I was even with them players at times.”
The former midfielder joins the Hall of Fame ranks this year alongside Lionesses all-time top goalscorer Ellen White MBE and Anita Asante, another ex-Lioness and now Bristol City assistant coach. Both dedicated years to playing in the WSL alongside philanthropic work outside of the game. Both have also retired within the last couple of years and the trio were honoured by the FA as they collected their awards surrounded by family and members of the women’s football community.
“I’m just dead proud that I got to play in this league for as many years as I did. Not that I was inundated with offers, but I never went away from the WSL. So, I must have enjoyed it a lot,” Scott continued.
“No matter what injury I had, or anything, I remember being like nothing’s going to stop me taking to that field. Stupidly, sometimes I would play through a lot of injuries. But that was because I just didn’t want to miss a game, I didn’t want to miss a moment – sounds like I was going to go into a bit of a song then,” she joked.
Whilst her induction honours her playing career, Scott also sees it as an opportunity to inspire the next generations of players, passing the baton down to the next generation players.
“I think it’s kind of passing that baton on, really,” she reflected. “When I look at the midfielders I used to play against, obviously, I played top league before it was WSL, so when I was playing against the likes of Katie Chapman and Fara Williams, players like that, we used to have such battles.”
Williams was inducted into the WSL Hall of Fame in 2021, with Katie Chapman was added in 2022 alongside Karen Carney MBE, Eni Aluko MBE and Kelly Smith MBE. Emma Hayes OBE who recently announced her departure from Chelsea, and Rachel Yankey OBE were also introduced in 2021.
“You look at where the game is now, I think technically, tactically, it’s probably one of the reasons that I retired because the level has just gone through the roof,” Scott explained.
“So, it’s just great to sit here and see where the league is now.”
Scott’s entire family has been engrossed in her footballing journey. Even now, when she was on holiday, her mum was keeping her updated with the games and scores. Revealing that her mum, Doreen, is a Villa fan due to Scott’s time at the club on loan from Manchester City in 2022, and a fan of manager of Carla Ward. “[My mum] knows how much I enjoyed my time there, so she’s always looking out for their results.”
The connection to Villa is made more heartwarming after two of Scott’s oldest and closest friends, Lucy Staniforth and Jordan Nobbs, joined the club in January 2023 in a bid for the pair to reach the World Cup. The trio are all from England’s north east and began their careers at Sunderland.
Commenting on what the Hall of Fame accolade means for her, Scott shared more heartwarming stories, adding that her grandmother, aged 89, sent a video message in when collecting her award, saying that she lives for Scott’s football and loves watching the WSL every weekend.
Revealing that moments like this make all the sacrifices worth it, Scott hopes her award will inspire young girls and that hard work can equate to achieving your wildest dreams.
Scott also praised former teammates for their role in the accolade, highlighting the likes of Steph Houghton, Lauren Hemp and Keira Walsh for what they did next to her on the pitch.
“I think they made me look half decent at times,” she joked. “So, I do have to say that they’ve played a big role in me kind of getting inducted and I’m sure a lot of them will be inducted in the future as well.”
Scott has been in women’s football since 2004 and began playing in the top flight, in the pre-WSL era, in 2006. Since then, growth has been exponential, with attendances continuing to rise year on year.
In 2014, the average WSL attendance was 728, compared to 562 in 2013. In 2016, attendances were 1,128 – up five per cent on 2015 (1,076)
The Lionesses winning Euro 2022 on home soil was the catalyst for the recent explosion. WSL attendances in 2022/23 were up by 200%, averaging 6,000 spectators per game.
Even now becoming a natural occurrence for the WSL to break boundaries and reach new heights – Arsenal broke the league record with a 54,115 crowd at the Emirates for their opening day loss to Liverpool – Scott says that it was hard to ever imagine women’s football reaching these heights.
“Oh, yeah, it has exceeded [my expectations] because it’s really difficult,” she said.
“The reality is just your reality, isn’t it? So, when you turn up to a game, and there’s 200 people there, you can’t see past that sometimes. You hope that they’re going to fill the Etihad, that’s going to fill that Emirates, but it’s such a big kind of disparity from, say 200 people to suddenly 50,000.
“That’s always your dream. But there is something in the back of your mind where you go; how do we get there? And that’s why my motto has always been as individuals, as football players, as football teams as clubs, we have to make sure that we’re doing the right thing every single day.
“Everybody is 100% committed. Nobody’s cutting corners. And I think although we’re seeing the players getting inducted into the Hall of Fame, you see teams doing well, there’s so many people working so hard behind the scenes. That is so evident when you see 50,000 people turning up for a game.
“So, I suppose I want to say thank you to everybody who ever believed in women’s football, thanks to everybody who keeps working hard behind the scenes, and thanks to the teams and the players for keeping representing the game in the best way possible.”