Daily Mail

Scott’s shining away from the stifling glare of the big boys

- Barlow Matt

ALEx SCOTT was integral to England’s triumph at last year’s European Under 19 Championsh­ip in Slovakia, scoring in the semi-final against Italy and starting in the final against Israel. Since then, the Channel Islander has not looked back.

Already establishe­d in the Bristol City team, he has grown in stature and embraced more responsibi­lity, and in an FA Cup tie against Manchester City shared his fine progress with a mainstream audience on terrestria­l television.

Nice words from Pep Guardiola only fuelled the notion that the 19- year- old might be a very special talent.

Southampto­n’s academy released him at the age of 12 and, after a brief connection with Bournemout­h, he returned to his native Guernsey, where he played at Guernsey FC, making his debut in the Isthmian League at 16, in August 2019.

There was instant recognitio­n and by the end of 2019, he signed on a scholarshi­p at Bristol City where he sped through the youth ranks under the relative cover of the lockdown rules keeping spectators out, deemed too good for the Under 18s and soon in the Under 21s.

Nigel Pearson named him in the squad in his first game as manager at the club, in February 2021, and Scott signed his first profession­al contract a few days later. Two years on, he has made more than 80 senior appearance­s and Premier League clubs are circling.

His willing attitude has impressed. Some refer to it as an islander’s mentality, prepared to do what it takes. Also, an exposure to non-League football with a club where they represent the community and devote long hours to the task, which involves a 5.30am flight to away games.

They were playing at Westfield, near Woking, before a crowd of 97 as Scott was taking on Manchester City in the FA Cup. Bristol City returned to the island to secure two more young players last year. Ben Acey signed a profession­al deal and Tim Ap Sion as a scholar. Brian Tinnion, academy director at the Championsh­ip club, has developed a good connection with Guernsey boss Tony Vance.

Scott spent much of last season at right wing back. This season, as an advanced midfielder in the No 10 role. He is creative, with an ability to go past opponents and, over time, expected to mature into a boxto-box all-rounder. Pearson is in no doubt he has the talent to play for England and Gareth Southgate’s assistant Steve Holland was there to see him shine against Manchester City.

One model does not fit all young footballer­s but there are good examples of those developing at speed who have thrived on early exposure to senior football in the EFL amid the security of familiar surroundin­gs, where the coaching staff know them and trust them, and without the stifling glare and expectatio­n in the Premier League.

When they are advancing at speed and the road is clear they can stretch their progress. If the road is closed, it is harder. Not impossible but they lose momentum with no guarantee of getting it back.

Plenty of senior England players have maximised this career path through the lower leagues, including Jude Bellingham, who burst out of Birmingham’s academy, into the first team, overseas and strode on. He has not stopped developing.

Few other England players from last summer’s Under 19 Euros, many of whom will go to the Under 20s World Cup in the summer, have kicked on with the same impact as Scott. That does not mean they will not but they will need an opportunit­y.

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 ?? REX ?? Prospect: Scott is tipped to play for England
REX Prospect: Scott is tipped to play for England

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