In 1969, top flight football was littered with impressive debuts. Manchester United gave unproven reserves manager Wilf McGuinnes the nod to succeed Sir Matt Busby, Don Revie’s Leeds won the title for the first time, and a young, mouthy Scottish lad called Graeme Souness was demanding first team football at 16.
Today things have changed, and thankfully, for the best. Pitches are perfect, players are finely tuned athletes and moustaches are found on Shoreditch Baristas rather than Scottish Ballers. However, in many studios, the football punditry has not. Alex Scott most certainly didn’t demand a spot in punditry the same way as Souness demanded games, but instead she is doing what all great players do – letting the performances speak for themselves.
Changes have torn through the game as money, sports science and competition increases each season. The women’s game has certainly come more into focus too, as some of the world’s biggest clubs such as Manchester City and Barcelona invest heavily in providing world-class training facilities and offering full-time contracts to players. The women’s game has gone from being sniggered at by past pundits, to reaching standards on and off the pitch that are being taken very seriously indeed – assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis regularly officiating in The Premier League and proving that if you know the rules, then it doesn’t matter who you are.
So how about in the studio? Alex Scott has been a welcome change to football punditry. As a former England, Arsenal and Boston Breakers right-back, she has more than enough experience to express her opinions. She clocked up 140 caps for the Lionesses during her 16-year career, while clinching five Women’s Premier League titles, seven Women’s FA Cups and the Women’s Champions League… so her views and opinions surely demand more respect than those from pundits such as Robbie Savage.
As Sky sports comes under further competition from BT sport, the BBC and others, the introduction of Alex marks a new era in broadcasting. Professionals from any sport who have played at the highest level can give insights into tactics, decisions, mindsets and know what it’s like to be in the thick of the action. Her knowledge of the game and fearless attitude to debating points with legends of the game such as Souness can help pave the way for other potential pundits such as Eni Aluko.
Richard Keyes, Barry Davies, Andy Gray and John Motson have all been excellent broadcasters that have left huge boots to fill. Martin Keown, Thierry Henry, Michael Owen and Martin Tyler all seem to be on borrowed time, so with talent being fairly sparse (although Lampard and Gerrard were excellent before taking up their managerial roles) now could be the time for a new approach.
Sir Matt Busby once said that “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”, meaning that it shouldn’t matter who you are, just as long as you can perform. Let’s apply this rule to Alex and prove that it’s not strictly just a man’s game.