From France - So far along England’s World Cup journey we’ve interviewed about eight or nine of the Lionesses. Every single one of them lists Jill Scott as the funniest player in the squad or the player who is making everyone laugh.
Before the World Cup almost all of the squad listed Scott as the player most likely to forget her passport. However, equally I imagine if we had asked:
Name the player who is the most consistent?
Name the player who is criminally underrated?
Name the player who never has a bad game for the Lionesses?
Name the most important player for England across the last four World Cups?
The answer would also be: Jill Scott.
Players like Jill rarely get enough credit because in an age where the social media world wants to see nutmegs, Rabonas and R1 finesse finishing, she prioritises hard work, positioning and getting the job done for the team. All the while, she does so with a smile on her face and with an energy that is infectious.
It’s important first to recognise the platform that Jill creates for the rest of the team off the field. Jill is eternally young, always smiling and unwaveringly consistent in her mentality and her attitude. Add to that the fact that whenever you’re in her company she has you in stitches and you start to understand what an important and unique presence she brings to the camp.
If you haven’t seen her Instagram stories series created with Karen Bardsley, ‘Obvious Jill’ you need to. You’ll see someone who is not afraid to be herself, to smile and who is ready to enjoy every second of this brilliant experience the Lionesses are having.
Once she crosses the white line, ‘Pitch Jill’ is very different. She's a joy to watch. She said after the quarter-finals when asked about her excellent performance, "It’s a weird one. Whenever I finish playing a game and people either say you’ve played well or maybe you didn’t, it’s hard, because I’m focused on the result, because that’s what matters.
"We could have been fantastic and lost and all gone home. I don’t want to give you a cheesy answer but I’m really focused on the result and I’m just so happy that we won."
This refreshing selfless attitude is reflected in her playing style. She works tirelessly for the team and has a knack of being in the right place at the right time. For England in the quarter-final against Norway, that place was seven yards out and the time was two minutes in. As Lucy Bronze bombed down the wing, Ellen White burst into the box, Scott ghosted in behind her and as Ellen made the rarest of miscalculations Jill reacted wonderfully to guide the ball in off the post. 1-0, the fastest goal the Lionesses have ever scored at a World Cup.
Not only did her goal set England off to a flyer but, just as she lifts the mood and keeps things upbeat off the pitch, she took any sting out of the game and made sure England were calm and ready to play on the front foot. After that brilliant early moment, Scott went about her business. Essentially Jill Scott just wonderfully doing Jill Scott things.
If you allow yourself to watch Jill for periods of the game you will see she does pretty much nothing wrong. She wins the ball back over and over and assists with the transition between defence and attack. Again, she’s not out there constantly pinging 60-yard Hollywood passes, but she carefully guides the team forward 10-15 yards at a time, it’s rare you’ll see her ever lose the ball.
She’s not barking orders and screaming her head off, but she’s encouraging others, aware of everything on the pitch and acting as a coach for Phil Neville outside of his technical area.
It’s no surprise that with this work ethic and hunger that Jill Scott is England’s all-time World Cup appearance maker. When you consider that she has been doing all of the above on the biggest stage across four tournaments it’s all the more remarkable.
As the minutes pass she grows further and further into games, as opponents seem to tire around her, her standards and industry remain exactly the same. As if by magic, when the full-time whistle blew and with the job successfully done, a huge beaming smile came over her face, and Jill returns to making everyone laugh and feel at ease during the celebrations.
Next time England will play they will be in a World Cup semi-final. Scott's name will once again be one of the first on the team sheet. At some point during the first half, once the dust has settled, allow yourself five minutes to follow her on the pitch. Watch as she provides the heartbeat for England’s midfield and appreciate what a magnificent player that she is.
With a little luck, on Wednesday morning we will all be discussing another masterclass, only this time it’s one that helped guide the Lionesses to a World Cup final.