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Thursday, 17 September 2020

The unstoppable rise of the BBC's new golden girl: How ex-footballer Alex Scott – who turned to drink after being trolled – dined with Putin, dazzled on Strictly and is now the new face of A Question Of Sport

 

  • Alex Scott is set to take over from Sue Barker as host of a Question of Sport
  • 35-year-old former England player-turned Strictly star now works as a pundit 
  • Scott impressed when she worked alongside Alan Shearer at 2018 World Cup

She unlaced her football boots and swapped the pitch for the ballroom, and now Alex Scott is set to add another string to her bow as she takes the helm of a Question of Sport. 

After days of speculation, the 35-year-old England player-turned-pundit has been confirmed as Sue Barker's successor on the long-running BBC sports show. 

Former Strictly contestant Scott, who once revealed she's faced threats of rape and acid attacks, will take over next year after Barker, 64, was axed after 24 years, alongside team captains Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell.

The move will be Scott's biggest presenting gig to date, having forged a successful career as a pundit on Sky Sports and the BBC. 

The former Arsenal right-back, who was brought up on a council estate in Poplar, east London by her single mother, was taken on by the London club aged just eight. 

She said it 'blows my mind' when young girls hail her as an inspiration. 

Speaking last year, she said she didn't have any female footballers to look up to when she was a child, and instead idolised her mother Carol McKee and Arsenal legend Ian Wright. 

Scott founded an academy for young female footballers and finished her career as the second most capped England player with 140 appearances. She was awarded an MBE in 2017.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing. After covering the men's World Cup in Russia for the BBC in 2018, Scott has been dogged by abuse online and turned to alcohol and underwent therapy in a bid to cope with the trolling. 

But the retired Lioness will defy the critics when she takes up the post next year. 

Alex Scott was confirmed as Sue Barker's replacement on A Question Of Sport

Alex Scott was confirmed as Sue Barker's replacement on A Question Of Sport

Career: Alex has previously played for England and Arsenal before becoming a successful TV presenter (pictured in 2017)
Confirmed: Alex's star has risen all the more since she competed on Strictly in 2019

From the pitch to the ballroom: Alex played for England and Arsenal before becoming a successful TV presenter (left in 2017). Right, on Strictly last year 

Alex and Neil were eliminated on week 11 of Strictly, and the footballer's stint on the show saw her dance alongside Kevin Clifton for two weeks after her dance partner had to pull out temporarily because of an injury

Alex and Neil were eliminated on week 11 of Strictly, and the footballer's stint on the show saw her dance alongside Kevin Clifton for two weeks after her dance partner had to pull out temporarily because of an injury

Star in the making: The former Arsenal right-back, who was brought up on a council estate in Poplar, east London by her single mother, was taken on by the London club aged just eight

Star in the making: The former Arsenal right-back, who was brought up on a council estate in Poplar, east London by her single mother, was taken on by the London club aged just eight

Tea at the Kremlin: The 35-year-old alongside Rio Ferdinand (right) with Vladimir Putin (centre) enjoying in 2018

Tea at the Kremlin: The 35-year-old alongside Rio Ferdinand (right) with Vladimir Putin (centre) enjoying in 2018 

After days of speculation, the 35-year-old England player-turned-pundit (pictured at the UEFA Women's Euro 2017) has been confirmed as Sue Barker's successor on the long-running BBC sports show

After days of speculation, the 35-year-old England player-turned-pundit (pictured at the UEFA Women's Euro 2017) has been confirmed as Sue Barker's successor on the long-running BBC sports show

Family: Alex, pictured with her mother, Carol in March 2019, is of Irish and Jamaican descent

Family: Alex, pictured with her mother, Carol in March 2019, is of Irish and Jamaican descent 

Scott played her last game in 2018, and finished her career as the second most capped England player with 140 appearances, playing in three World Cups. She was awarded an MBE in 2017 - pictured here with her mother

Scott played her last game in 2018, and finished her career as the second most capped England player with 140 appearances, playing in three World Cups. She was awarded an MBE in 2017 - pictured here with her mother 

In an interview with the Guardian in 2018, Scott, who was born to parents of Jamaican and Irish descent, detailed the abuse she was subjected to. 

She said: 'The comments were like: 'I know where you live. I'm going to come and throw acid in your face. I'm going to rape you.''

While she says she's learned to ignore the comments, she says seeing how 'it upsets my mum is hard.'

In 2008, Scott moved to US side Boston Breakers for two years before returning to Arsenal, leading her team to an FA Cup victory as Captain. 

In 2011 she founded the Alex Scott Academy for female footballers aged 16-19. 

The former Arsenal right-back was taken on by the London club at the age of just 8

The former Arsenal right-back was taken on by the London club at the age of just 8

She played her last game in 2018, and finished her career as the second most capped England player with 140 appearances, playing in three World Cups.   

Touching on the growing popularity in women's football, she told The Sun on Sunday, 'I love the fact girls have more visibility now. Not just across sport, in all industries.'

Speaking to Hello! magazine alongside her Strictly partner last year, Alex told the magazine she was single and happy as she denied rumours she and her partner Neil Jones had struck up a romance. 

She added: 'I'm single but it's not like I need to find someone. I like things to happen organically and if someone comes into my life and we get on, then great. It's not like I need to go searching for it.'

She said she and Neil shared a 'connection' but Scott confirmed she, 'came out of a long-term relationship' just before she went on Strictly.

The duo were eliminated on week 11 of Strictly. 

After rising to the top of her game in football, Scott went on to become the first female pundit for men's Premier League games on Sky Sports. 

In 2018, she travelled to Russia alongside Rio Ferdinand to meet Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.

The pair and a host of other 'world football legends' – including Peter Schmeichel and Lothar Matthaus - enjoyed tea and cake with the Russian president before gifting him a football shirt emblazoned with his name. 

Speaking in 2019, she made clear her ambition to appear on prime time TV when she said she would more than happily 'put my name in the hat' should Gary Lineker decide he's 'had enough' of fronting Match of the Day. 

But Scott said her presence on screen in a traditionally male-dominated profession triggered horrendous abuse which began while she was still playing. 

In conversation with Watford captain Troy Deeney as part of the Heads Up campaign focusing on mental health, the star revealed the extent to which the online 'trolling' affected her.

'When I retired, getting trolled, I found that I was turning to drink to try and hide everything, hide what I was feeling,' she said.

'I didn't tell anyone, I didn't tell my mum because I didn't want her to worry or put that stress on her. I was just that person (who thought) 'I can look after myself, I can deal with stuff' but obviously sometimes that's the wrong way.

'I got to a dark place and it was over Christmas, that's when I was like 'I can't carry on like this, it's not me, I need to seek help' and that led me into therapy.

'I want to take that stigma away from it. Now when I talk about mental health, straight away I'm smiling because I know what it's done for me to leave that place. I'm content.

'I'm happy, and I've used the tools that I've learned to be in that place.'

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror last year, she said: 'I had all of it — for being a woman on TV, for being a woman of ­colour on TV, that I'm ticking a box, death threats.

'I had the lot. But I'm still standing. All the time I thought, 'No, I'm good at my job'. That's why I did my degree, so no one can ever say I'm just there because I'm a tick in a box.' 

Speaking after her stint on Strictly, Scott revealed she was undergoing therapy to cope with the abuse, telling the Sun: 'I would say I'm still on a journey. I'm still in therapy so I'm still learning how to communicate with my emotions more.'

Changes: Sue, 64, has been axed from the BBC show, alongside team captains Matt Dawson (left) and Phil Tufnell (right)

Changes: Sue, 64, has been axed from the BBC show, alongside team captains Matt Dawson (left) and Phil Tufnell (right)

Scott has guest-starred on A Question Of Sport twice, with one occasion being aired in November 2016.

During the episode she appeared alongside Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, England cricketer Mark Wood and Scottish rugby star Stuart Hogg.

During her athletic career, Scott has represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics and was awarded an MBE in 2016 as well as scoring 12 goals for England.

After retiring from football in 2017 she went on to be the first female pundit on Sky Sport's Super Sunday show.

Scott has plenty of presenting experience as she has also co-presented CBBC's Match of the Day Kickabout and BBC One's The Women's Football Show.

Last year, she appeared on Strictly Come Dancing and was partnered with professional dancer Neil Jones. 

On screen: Alex previously appeared on A Question Of Sport in 2016 alongside Scottish rugby star Stuart Hogg (pictured during the show)

On screen: Alex previously appeared on A Question Of Sport in 2016 alongside Scottish rugby star Stuart Hogg (pictured during the show)

Gary Lineker, 59, announced the news on Twitter on Thursday, but was accused of 'race-baiting' when he penned: 'Congratulations and good luck to @AlexScott on being the new host for Question Of Sport.

'Smart, knowledgeable and perfectly qualified for the role. Oh... and if you have a problem with Alex getting the job, you might just be part of the problem.' 

An insider told The Sun that Alex was 'lined up' as Sue's replacement because she has lots of sporting knowledge and experience.

They said: 'Like Sue, she's a former sportswoman and she also has five years of broadcasting under her belt.

'This has nothing to do with gender, nor is it a case of the BBC trying to be woke.

The source also explained how Alex had impressed BBC bosses when she appeared on the show in the past.  

It comes after Barker, who will stay on as the corporation's face of Wimbledon, told of her sadness at having to leave the show after 24 years.

She said that the BBC had to remove her from A Question Of Sport as she would never have left her dream job voluntarily.

She told Sportsmail on Sunday: 'I love the show so much they would have to remove me, it would have been tough for me to walk away.

'I've absolutely loved my 24 years fronting A Question Of Sport, it's been my dream job,' she said.

'But I understand the BBC want to take the show in a new direction and I'm sad to say goodbye.'

Barker will continue with presenting duties for the next two summers at Wimbledon, having signed a three-year deal last year.

Sportsmail understands she signed a new three-year contract last year to carry her through until at least 2022, something that will come as a relief to many viewers.

The decision to axe Barker sparked fury from critics who accused the BBC of ageism, including former BBC radio and TV presenter Wendy Austin who tweeted: 'No ageism/sexism in the BBC then...

Ex-newsreader Jennie Bond told GMB: 'Sue will be hurting this morning. You can't do anything about your age and there is a pressure on television, particularly for women, to look younger.' 

Ex-Tottenham and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas was also said to be in the running to become one of the new team captains. 

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