It’s hard to believe that there was a time when one of the EFL’s brightest starlets and European champion Alex Scott was weighing up whether football was for him.
The Bristol City youngster, who spent time in the Southampton Academy setup before moving on to Bournemouth for a spell following his release, spent a large chunk of his childhood airborne, travelling to training and games before it eventually took its toll.
“It was costing my parents so much money as well, and if it’s costing them too much money and I’m not enjoying it, then what’s the point?” the 19-year-old admits. “It was at a point where I wasn’t really enjoying the football anymore. I just wanted to be back home with my friends I knew from when I was younger.
“One of the best decisions I made was to stop playing football at the time and just going home to enjoy my football. That’s where it almost brought the love back for the game for me.”
From the age of eight to 12, Scott, the young boy who would wear his football kit to bed, would spend every weekend flying over from the small island of Guernsey to the south coast to try and make his dream of becoming a professional footballer come true.
“Luckily, there was another lad that was doing the same thing who is at Bristol City now called Ben Acey, so we built up a good relationship and our families are very close,” he adds. “Most of the time, it was me, him and our parents in a hotel every week.”
After settling back into life at home, he signed for local non-league outfit Guernsey and after impressing in a handful of games, caught the eye of Bristol City.
“I’m grateful for the coaches that I had when I went back home that made me enjoy football again,” he explains. “When I started feeling good about myself again and playing well, that’s when I was more serious about wanting to get back into it.”
He linked up with the Robins’ Under-18s before making the step up to the Under-23s when the UK emerged from a COVID-enforced lockdown, putting him on the brink of the first team.
Shortly after celebrating his 18th birthday in August 2021, Scott signed his first professional deal with the Club.
He says: “Just after, I got my first call-up for England, so it all happened quickly; lots of key moments happened in quick succession. Not long after, I made my debut for Bristol City. It was a really good couple of months.”
Little did he know what that call-up would eventually lead to. In the summer, Scott was summoned by Ian Foster for the Under-19 European Championship, which England went on to win, as the young midfielder lifted his first piece of silverware.
He played his part in helping the Three Lions reach the Final, coming off the bench in the second half of the Semi-Final showdown, trailing Italy 1-0, to score the equaliser and inspire a rousing revival.
England flipped the scoreline on its head, running out 2-1 victors and booking their place in the Final.
“It was my first goal for my country,” he remembers fondly. “It almost sparked the comeback. It brought a bit of confidence to the lads and from there on, we went on to win the game.”
Israel awaited in the Final and so did a place in the starting line-up for Scott, who didn’t underestimate England’s opponents.
“We knew how good a side they were because we played them in the Groups as well and just about beat them 1-0,” he recalls.
“The emotions were all over the place. I got taken off after 75 minutes or so, and I think it’s tougher when you’re on the bench watching on because it makes you even more nervous, but running on the pitch with all the lads celebrating, we had a great time that night.
“It was a crazy experience the whole year. It just topped it off in the summer to go there in Slovakia and win it.”
Five months on, the 19-year-old still hasn’t got around to framing his shirt and winners’ medal, yet to take pride of place in his and team-mate Tommy Conway’s shared digs, but insists it’s on his to-do list.
Within weeks, he was back in training with the Sky Bet Championship team and it was all systems go again, but it was that experience of the previous campaign – Scott’s breakthrough season – that gave him the edge going into the Euros.
“The tournament environment is so different, and not a lot of people get to experience that,” he explains. “To do so at such a young age – I was 18 at the time – you’ve got a game every three days.
“Playing in the Championship also helped with that. Some of the squad were just at Premier League Clubs playing Under- 23s, so the experience I had from last season playing Saturday then Tuesday every week definitely helps, and I think a lot of people benefitted off that.
“The pressure of playing for your country against other big nations is something I’ve brought back here too. I know when you have to win a game and you have to dig deep.”
His popularity among the Robins faithful has even earned Scott comparisons to a certain Premier League ace, affectionately baptised as the ‘Guernsey Grealish’ by supporters.
“Probably because of the socks,” he laughs. “He’s one of my favourite players and we have similar ways of playing and dribbling, and we’ve both got the same socks.
“I’ve got other idols as well that I look to – the likes of Jude Bellingham who’s flying at the minute and he’s an inspiration for a lot of young, English lads coming through the Championship and seeing what he’s done at a young age.”
Following in their footsteps, Scott turned out 38 times for Bristol City in the second tier last season, as the Robins placed 17th in the Championship standings, building on three appearances the previous term.
His performances saw him named the Club’s 2021/22 Young Player of the Year, something which was a huge honour for the starlet.
“I think it was voted by the fans as well, so that makes it even more special when the fans at the Club appreciate how you’ve played throughout the season,” he continues.
“I played quite a lot of games last year, which I wasn’t expecting. I had plenty of highs and lows. There were times when I was dragged off after 30 minutes and you’re sat in the changing rooms thinking, ‘I’m not cut out for this level yet.’ You’ve got to remember you’re still young.”
This season, the Robins’ number seven has once again established himself as a mainstay in Nigel Pearson’s side and as the Championship presses pause for the World Cup, it gives him the perfect time to reflect on his start to the campaign. And one thing he has on his side this term is self-belief.
“With the experience I’ve got from last year and in the summer, I feel I can bring that quality to the team,” he asserts. “I have full confidence that I should be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
“It’s important I keep my feet on the ground and keep working hard to stay in the team and keep doing what I’ve done to get here.”
This feature originally appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of the EFL Magazine.