Fay hails Scots who re­fused to accept be­ing the ‘nearly girls’

● Goal­keeper wins her 200th cap in in fi­nal warm-up be­fore Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships

The Scotsman - - Sport -

SCOT­LAND V REP OF IRE­LAND

Gemma Fay will win her 200th cap against Repub­lic of Ire­land at Stark’s Park tonight but, for her, the big­ger re­ward awaits the en­tire Scot­land squad, when they travel to the Nether­lands next week to take part in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.

It is the women’s first ever ap­pear­ance at a ma­jor tour­na­ment, and Fay, who has been there through the ups and downs, the near misses and the wake-up calls, it will be an ex­pe­ri­ence to savour.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited that it is here,” she said. “People who have been fol­low­ing women’s foot­ball will prob­a­bly agree that for a long time it didn’t look like it would hap­pen.

“It looked like we would be the ‘oh so nearly girls’ or ‘the glo­ri­ous fail­ures’ but it says a lot, not just about this group, but about the sport and the people in­volved in it in this coun­try, that they wouldn’t accept nearly, they wouldn’t accept that is the best we could do.

“Ev­ery­one has kept push­ing and push­ing and it won’t stop here. They won’t be happy with just the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship,they­will­want­world Cups and they will want two and then three and that’s the

0 Scot­land Women goal­keeper Gemma Fay, who wins her 200th cap tonight, has ben­e­fited from the phiys­i­cal­ity of play­ing in Ice­land. way it should be. You should al­ways be look­ing for the next thing to achieve.”

So of­ten the team has fallen at the fi­nal hur­dle but now, with just one warm-up game stand­ing be­tween Anna Signeul’s squad and the Euro group games against Eng­land, Por­tu­gal and Spain, Fay and her col­leagues will take their place among the con­ti­nent’s elite.

There must have been mo­ments when even a driven com­peti­tor like the Scot­land goal­keeper doubted if per­sis­tence would pay off.

“There was ten min­utes after the Spain game,” says the 35-year-old. “I was on the pitch cry­ing like a lit­tle baby. But then I got my­self to­gether and went to speak to the me­dia and said we quite sim­ply weren’t good enough. If we were sup­posed to be there, we would have been there and from that mo­ment we just kicked on again.”

That was in Oc­to­ber 2012, when a last-gasp ex­tra-time goal in the se­cond leg of the play-off de­nied them a place at Uefa Women’s Eueo 2013. But rather than al­low the stuff­ing to be knocked out of them, Fay says the mem­ory of that hurt fu­elled the quest for im­prove­ment.

“We dealt with the dis­ap­point­ment and used it as mo­ti­va­tion to keep push­ing,” she said. “There are a lot of the girls here who were at that Spain game and there are a lot of girls here who were at the Nether­lands game [in Oc­to­ber 2014, when an­other play-off fail­ure forced them to re­main at home as an­other ma­jor cham­pi­onships raged on]. That was a dif­fer­ent kind of dis­ap­point­ment. In that one we didn’t show what we can do.

“So there is a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence of com­ing so close and see­ing it snatched from you, and there is ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity and just not per­form­ing and maybe not un­der­stand­ing why. There is all that ex­pe­ri­ence of all the emo­tions and the ups and downs of foot­ball.”

Which is why they are de­ter­mined to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity now that they have qual­i­fied.

Fay will take to the field, though, to notch up the dou­ble cen­tury of ap­pear­ances. It helps vin­di­cate the keeper’s de­ci­sion to head out to Ice­land ear­lier this sea­son, after in­jurycaused her to lose her Glas­gow City start­ing berth to Lee Alexan­der and her Scot­land po­si­tion came un­der threat from Shan­non Lynn.

“I had to get my­self back play­ing and the St­jar­nan op­por­tu­nity came up and I went out to ice­land and it is a re­ally dif­fer­ent league out there.

“It is very, very phys­i­cal and goal­keep­ers aren’t pro­tected and that has been good for me,” she said.

“It is a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity. We think we are hard in Scot­land but the Ice­landics are quite hard too!

“It has been good to work on the things I wanted to work on. It is a tighter league and we are reign­ing cham­pi­ons and sit­ting se­cond in the league but from the bot­tom to the top they are tight matches.”

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