I can’t walk down the street at the moment without spotting England captain Leah Williamson on every billboard or bus stop. It is just great to see.
Women’s football has been on a steady upward curve for the past 25 years – but in the past two years especially the pace of change has been incredible.
Record viewing figures. Record attendances. TV exposure is growing and gradually players are becoming household names. I’ve watched our sport explode in popularity. It’s so far away from my experience getting into the game as a child.
Without football I don’t know where I’d be. It’s given me so much. Football has been my life. But I got lucky.
I didn’t even know women’s football teams existed when I was younger. I used to go and play with my brother in the local football cage near my house in east London.
I then got spotted in a five-a-side tournament in Tower Hamlets. Someone knew someone down at Arsenal. He took me down for a trial and they signed me. I was eight years old and up to then had only played with my brother’s mates.
When I was 16 I got a job on the side in the Arsenal laundry room. I used to wash the kit for the men’s players like Ian Wright and Thierry Henry after they had finished training, and then in the evening I’d go to training myself.
I relied on hand-me-downs for boots. We were lucky to get £50 a week to cover travel expenses and later, when I got a job as a part-time teacher, I would be at the back of the coach after a midweek game marking homework and planning the lesson for the next day.
Now it’s totally different.
While I was making the BBC Sport documentary Alex Scott: The Future of Women’s Football I spent a full day at Manchester City’s academy, getting a tour of the facilities and also meeting some of the teenage players. They train after school for three hours a night, with tactical lessons in classrooms and gym sessions as well as time out on the pitch.
- Watch Alex Scott: The Future of Women’s Football now – or on BBC One on Saturday from 22:20 BST
I also spent a Saturday afternoon nearby, watching a girls’ football league in Urmston. It was just a collection of pitches in a small suburb of Manchester but there were games everywhere you looked. It was incredible to see.
Until I signed for Arsenal and played for their youth teams, there’s no way I would have seen a group of girls playing an organised game. You’d see maybe one or two playing in a boys’ match.
There are now over a million female players registered at age groups 15 and under. I can’t help but get excited about just how many more opportunities they will have.
These are young girls who can see role models now, too, like Leah Williamson or Lucy Bronze. The only role models I had in the game were male players like Wright and Henry.
Williamson told me when we spoke for the documentary that the only thing her dad wanted for her was that she was able to earn a wage from the sport – for football to be her job.
There was no pathway for me to become a footballer. Someone just knew someone at Arsenal and it went from there.
Now there is a clear pathway, and young female players can see where it takes you. All they need to do is switch on a TV.