Gemma Fay retires but says Scotland Women are in safe hands

Scotland's most-capped footballer has announced her retirement from the international stage, claiming that this summer's Euros had proved the perfect way to bring the curtain down.

Gemma Fay was a fixture in the Scotland goal for nearly 20 years after making her debut aged 16. Picture: Lorraine Hill.
Gemma Fay was a fixture in the Scotland goal for nearly 20 years after making her debut aged 16. Picture: Lorraine Hill.

Gemma Fay, who amassed 203 caps on duty for the country’s women’s team and helped them qualify for their first-ever major finals, in the Netherlands, this summer, has decided to step aside ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.

“I felt the time was right to call it a day and that my journey was complete after playing in the Euros this summer,” she said. “I have given everything I can for my country and as the team moves into a new era with a new head coach it’s time to pass the baton to the next generation.”

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In a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, last month’s Euros were undoubtedly the highlight for a goalkeeper who always spoke of her pride in playing for Scotland.

“Captaining my country for the best part of a decade has meant everything to me. It’s an indescribable honour that is asked of very few people and to be part of that has been humbling,” said the 35-year-old. “When I was a child if you had told me I would play for my country once I would have been delighted, so to have done so on 203 occasions is incredible. It is hard to describe how much it has meant to me to play for my country. It has helped shape me.”

A fixture as the national team surfed the highs and lows, Fay suffered the heartbreak of near misses in previous qualifying competitions but was bursting with pride as she led the team out at this summer’s finals, playing in all three matches as the team only missed out on the quarter-finals on goal difference.”

Fay joins defender Ifeoma Dieke and midfielder Leanne Ross and outgoing head coach Anna Signeul in calling time on their Scotland careers, the latter leaving to take up a new role with the Finland national team. Fay paid tribute to her boss, thanking all the coaches she has worked with throughout her double century of caps, including Jim Fleeting, who gave her her debut, as a 16-year-old, in a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic in Inverness in 1998. She also paid tribute to Vera Pauw and to Signeul, under whom she played for the past 12 years.

But, having witnessed the level of talent coming through the ranks and being well versed on the quality of incoming manager Shelley Kerr, who previously played alongside Fay for the national team, Fay believes there is bright future ahead for the blossoming women’s game.

“This is such an exciting time for women’s football in Scotland and I wish Shelley and her team every success in the future. I look forward to watching this team flourish.”

Kerr said the team would miss Fay’s ability but said that she was ending her international career in fitting style, following the Euros group victory over Spain.

“Gemma is a true role model for any athlete. The years of dedication and commitment she has given to her country are an inspiration and one cannot underestimate her contribution to women’s football in Scotland over the past two decades,” Kerr said, describing her as “a fantastic role model and ambassador of the game”.

“There is no doubt that as a team we will miss her qualities – not just her football talent, but her communication skills and her leadership.

“Her being an ever-present in the squad for nearly 20 years is remarkable. She is a very intelligent footballer who understands the requirements at the highest level.”