It is not only her nation that Lee Alexander wants to do justice to in the forthcoming World Cup finals. It is her position. The 27-year-old might be considered to have the double-whammy when it comes to stigmas. It could hardly be any other way when the Glasgow City performer is both Scottish and a goalkeeper in the women’s game.
Taking no account of the physiological differences compared to the men, the mocking of the supposed deficiencies of females operating between the sticks has long been a stick with which to beat those championing women’s football. It hardly needs repeating the tiresome English pundits’ view of Scottish keepers since the Saint and Greavsie days of the 1980s.
Alexander, in both articulate and considered fashion, appears a personality – and a talent – capable of facing down wearying preconceptions, while not attempting to entirely dismiss them.
“It’s something that has stuck on that position,” said Alexander, who emerged as Scotland’s keeper following the retirement of Gemma Fay two years ago. “Whether it is to do with the height, naturally we are never going to be as tall. The men make it look so easy sometimes. For us, goalkeepers have to work harder to be more springy, to have better plyometric jumps.
“It is something I have worked on over the last few years. Do everything and train the exact same as, for instance, a Scott Bain would be doing. You have to try to put yourself in that frame of mind. You are a goalkeeper first and foremost and you need to take out gender. You need to do everything that other people are doing, and more, to make sure you are the best you can be.
“It’s a harsh criticism to an extent, but there have been times when you have seen it televised and there have been a lot of goalkeeping mistakes. So, ultimately, you have to criticise. [But] I think we have developed so much more with more training. Look at the coaches we have. We have Steve Banks who has a wealth of knowledge and treats us the same as those he works with at Tranmere.
“To cut a long story short, do you say it is maybe a weakness in the game? Potentially. But you just have to use that as a motivation to make sure you do everything to try to improve yourself and almost brush off that stigma as such.”
The height of the average female keeper has led some to posit that the women’s game could be improved by reducing the size of the goals. Dropping the bar to seven feet from eight feet and bringing the posts in from eight yards to seven yards is one “solution” put forward. Alexander “would say” this is an insulting suggestion.
“We can still touch it [the bar]. We can jump up and cover it,” she said. “It just depends. If the flight of the ball is over the bar, it’s going to have to be an unbelievable save, even in the men’s game. You see men at the top level when the ball is going over the top of them and you say ‘how are they getting beaten?’ Well, it was just an unbelievable strike.
“We are covering the same goal, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You wouldn’t have the pitch taken in for the outfielders. It would be great if you could be 6ft tall. Unfortunately, we are not all that size.
“So you need to work even harder and try to make your legs get you there faster. That’s something we have worked on a lot, to be more powerful.”