‘Going back to grassroots football was one of the best decisions I ever made’
Published 23 May 2023 8 min read
England men’s under-20 and Bristol City star Alex Scott discusses his journey from playing grassroots football in Guernsey to flying to England several times a month to play for Southampton and then Bournemouth before deciding he needed to return to grassroots football
I started playing football for a club in Guernsey when I was four years old. I went to play with my brother’s team, which was a year older than me, so I might’ve been a bit too young to actually be playing!
I played at Rangers and then St Martin’s from being a young four until I was eight and that is when I got a trial at Southampton. That involved flying away every weekend with either my mum or my dad, which was an experience in itself!
I got released by Southampton around the age of 12 or 13 and then went to Bournemouth, where I played for a year.
Getting released by Southampton was tough. I fell out of love with football a bit and ended up going back home to Guernsey and playing local football there for two years. That brought the love for football back for me. Going back to grassroots football was one of the best decisions I ever made and helped me get to where I am now.
When I hit 16, I was playing for Guernsey FC and I became the youngest player to ever play for them, which was made into a bit of a big deal in the press.
Bristol City then called, I went over there for a trial and that’s when it really turned around and the dream was back on track again.
I moved over to Bristol when I was 16 and started playing there as a scholar and in the Under-23s initially before at the age of 17 or 18, I broke through into the first team and I have played pretty much every game since.
So, it’s been a crazy journey for me, from playing local football at home in Guernsey, getting released from clubs and now playing professional football week in week out. I’m just grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given.
At St Martins, I got to play in the same team as England Women international Maya Le Tissier because I often played up a year, especially when I went back there at 14. She’s flying at the moment with England and Manchester United and is poised for a great career in the women’s game, so I’m proud of her for what she’s achieved.
We would often fly over to England together for training with our respective teams when we were teenagers, along with another young lad named Ben Acey, who’s now at Bristol City.
Most of the time, we’d fly over on Fridays, often around lunchtime which meant I missed a fair amount of school growing up, or it would be after school if there were flights then.
We’d stay in a hotel Friday, have training on Saturday morning, play a game on Sunday morning and then get the next flight back on Sunday so we could be back for school on Monday.
It was good to do it with people who were similar in age, and it was good for our parents as well because whilst we were missing out on time with our friends back home, so were our parents and families. So, having others there, doing the same thing, made it easier for everyone to relate to one another.
When we had a day off on Saturday, we’d either go to watch a Southampton game if they were at home or we’d wander about the town. We did just about everything together for the weekend so I’ve built a really close relationship with Ben, especially with him now being at Bristol City, and I’ve been close with Maya since we were kids. It was important to have other people there, and I’m glad they were there to share the journey with.
Southampton would cover some of the costs – I believe they paid for the hotel – but my parents had to shoulder the cost of the flights each week and now that I’m older, I understand how challenging that would have been for them. It meant that when I joined Bournemouth, I would travel over twice a month instead because my parents had to pay for both the flights and the hotel, so it was not cheap for them.
It got to the stage when I was at Bournemouth where I wasn’t really enjoying it. I knew I wasn’t playing well and I wasn’t getting as much game time as I wanted to. I was only getting maybe 20 minutes, half an hour each weekend, which is not ideal, and you don’t want to be doing that as a kid, where your whole weekend feels like it is wasted just for 20 minutes of football.
Especially when you know you’re not performing well – it is tough to stay at it.
The decision to leave Bournemouth was more from my end. They wanted me to come back but I made the decision with my family, who knew that I wasn’t happy going over. I said to them that I didn’t want to do it anymore, which was really tough, but once I had made the decision, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I didn’t really have a social life back home at that age as a lot of my growing up was spent staying in hotels with my mum and dad.
I think that was the main benefit of when I went back to play in Guernsey at 14, because I could finally have a bit of a social life, spend time with my friends and create memories with them.
I doubt I would have had the career I’m having now if I hadn’t returned to grassroots football and St Martin’s. That decision to go home, enjoy my football, and live my life more fully made me happier off the pitch, which in turn meant better performance on the pitch.
I was playing with my closest friends, my brother and Maya, and we had a really good team. As an under-16 team, we won every trophy going – I think there was six or seven of them. I was scoring goals and playing free, with no pressure, and being able to play with your friends on a Saturday and then go out and enjoy yourself on Saturday night, it was important for me and helped me.
Now, being a professional footballer, it is a lot more serious and I can’t go out as much as I used to, but there are a lot of players who come through academies who maybe didn’t get the chance to do that and it’s tough. Any young lad should have the chance to enjoy their life, not only on the pitch but off the pitch too.
Returning home, reignited my love for football, and I just generally enjoyed my life a lot more, doing things I wouldn’t have done in previous years off the pitch; seeing friends and other family members I wouldn’t see on weekends when I would be at school all week and then go away for football.
It meant that when I hit 16, I felt much more ready. Thankfully, I got another opportunity to do what I love.
I think it’s good for young kids growing up in Guernsey to see us doing so well. It used to be there were limited opportunities there but things are a lot better now. Having that bridge between Guernsey and Bristol City and seeing myself, Maya, Ben and Tim Ap Sion doing well, it gives the young kids in Guernsey a lot of motivation to try to do the same.
If they see people like us, who were once like them, thinking there might not be a chance to play professional football if you live on Guernsey, we’re great examples that it is possible if you seize your opportunity. Luck also plays a part obviously and I’ve been lucky at times but the bridge between Guernsey and professional football is much stronger now.
And with Maya being a girl, she is a massive inspiration to so many young girls back home in Guernsey who thought there was no opportunity for them. She’s demonstrating that if you have the quality and the hunger, like she does, then there’s definitely a chance for you.
Interview: Maya Le Tissier