Gemma Fay hails Scots who refused to be the '˜nearly girls'

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.
Scotland Women goalkeeper Gemma Fay wins her 200th cap tonight. Picture: SNS.Scotland Women goalkeeper Gemma Fay wins her 200th cap tonight. Picture: SNS.
Scotland Women goalkeeper Gemma Fay wins her 200th cap tonight. Picture: SNS.

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.

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“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, they will want World Cups and they will want two and then three and that’s the 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.”

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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.”