Alex Scott has made a habit of making a big first impression.
Whether it was running rings around non-League opponents in his first game of senior football, smashing a trial match at Bristol City’s academy or wowing established players in his maiden first-team training session, Scott has never taken long to settle.
Now, after one of the summer transfer window’s most drawn-out sagas, it is Bournemouth hoping that their teenage recruit can hit the ground running.
Scott’s story would suggest it is highly likely.
“One thing we’ve noticed is that he’s got the ability to step up to whatever situation he’s in,” says Tony Vance, manager of Scott’s native Guernsey FC.
Now, with Scott’s 20th birthday approaching in August, the Premier League awaits.
It was August 31, 2019, when a 16-year-old Scott first made his mark for Guernsey.
He had signed for the island’s biggest club after being released by Southampton as a teenager but had been made to wait for his 16th birthday to play for the senior team in the Isthmian League South, the eighth tier in England and a competition full of experienced non-League players.
“His debut was against Phoenix Sports,” says Vance. “He came off the bench looking really young. I gave him instructions to watch himself, stay out of trouble and move the ball.
“Their central midfielder, who was going to be up against him, looked at him and rolled his sleeves up as if there was some raw meat for him.
“The ball went to Alex, this guy moved towards him to welcome him into the game and Alex just moved. By the time the bloke got to him he’d gone and that guy passed him on to somebody else very quickly.
“He rides tackles so well and he knows when to take the contact.”
By then, Vance had been monitoring Scott’s progress for around a decade. Not too many footballers on his level emerge from an island with a population that wouldn’t fill Old Trafford.
Scott stood out from a young age.
“Living on an island when there are so few people you know about any player very early on,” says Vance.
“I coach within our academy system as well so he was only six or seven when I first knew him. That’s when these players first start coming to fruition and then it’s such a small net of people so you know them all.
“It was just pure ability — natural talent. He had so much skill and ability to receive the ball and go past people.
“It’s difficult because you can’t get too excited. I’ve seen so many kids at four or five years old who look like the next Lionel Messi and they dip.
“But it was clear that Alex would play at a higher level than Guernsey. I remember recommending him to Everton when he was 10 or 11 but they weren’t interested.”
Everton’s lack of interest created an opportunity for Southampton, who took Scott into their academy.
The youngster travelled to England at weekends and in school holidays to train with the club, often in the company of step-sister Maya Le Tissier, who was representing Hampshire and now plays for Manchester United and England.
But his unexpected release by the south-coast club, followed by an unsuccessful stint at Bournemouth, left Scott disillusioned.
“I started playing football for a club in Guernsey when I was four,” Scott wrote on the FA’s website.
“I went to play with my brother’s team, which was a year older than me, so I might’ve been a bit too young to actually be playing. I played at Rangers and then St Martin’s from being a young four until I was eight and that is when I got a trial at Southampton. That involved flying away every weekend with my mum or dad, which was an experience in itself.
“I got released by Southampton around the age of 12 or 13 and then went to Bournemouth, where I played for a year. Getting released by Southampton was tough. I fell out of love with football a bit and ended up going back home to Guernsey and playing local football there for two years.
“That brought the love for football back for me. Going back to grassroots football was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Scott’s return to the Channel Islands put his career on a different path to most players of his age with links to professional clubs.
While they were honing their skills in academies with a diet of age-group football, Scott was thrown in at the deep end.
“He was a bit disappointed and concerned that his chance had gone,” says Vance. “But it was quite the opposite because it gave him the platform to play men’s football at a younger age.
“It probably helped him that he went into the men’s game, we travelled, so he got used to that, we had crowds and he got used to playing against experienced players.
“Again, it was an indicator of how good he was because he just stepped up.”
Scott’s senior career for Guernsey lasted just a couple of months before Vance realised he could hold him back no longer.
By then, the Guernsey manager had developed a link with Bristol City through loans manager Brian Tinnion, and Scott’s stand-out performances made him the obvious contender to make the switch.
“It took him a period of time to get back into football because it can be ruthless and upsetting,” Vance says.
“But he soon got into our academy structure and we were waiting for him to turn 16 so he could play for our first team.
“It became obvious pretty quickly that he was too good to be on the bench and soon too good for us so we pushed him towards Bristol City.”
Danny Simpson remembers clearly the first time he saw Scott in action.
“I was there for his first training session,” says the former Bristol City full-back, who won the Premier League with Leicester City.
“In that first session, we all knew he had that amazing ability.”
The ability had been no secret to staff below the first team at Ashton Gate, where Scott had made one of his trademark first impressions.
Having watched clips sent by Vance, the club invited Scott for a trial. They arranged a friendly against a team from the academy of a Premier League club. The trialist responded with a perfect hat-trick to win the game.
He was signed to the academy and quickly handed a professional deal. His progress was rapid and he soon found himself training and playing with Nigel Pearson’s first team.
“I just remember the first time I saw him and thinking, ‘He’s a player’,” says Simpson.
“He wanted the ball and he was sharp, and sometimes when young players step up to the first team they can have an attitude and not work hard, but that wasn’t the case with him.
“I loved the fact he worked hard and he was tackling all the lads — he didn’t care who they were. Once you’ve got that attitude as a base you’ve always got a chance.”
By the end of last season, with his 20th birthday still three months away, Scott had played 83 times in the Championship, scoring five goals and registering seven assists.
Those statistics are the area in which Pearson has claimed he has most room for improvement. A player of his talent, the City manager believes, should contribute more to goals as his game develops.
Alex Scott scores his first league goal of the season! Bristol City extend their lead 💥 pic.twitter.com/YBbfi0sf8U
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) March 11, 2023
But Scott did enough last season to be named the division’s young player of the year and was described as an “unbelievable talent” by Pep Guardiola after Manchester City’s FA Cup win at Ashton Gate.
“Nothing fazes him,” says Simpson. “He went into the first team and it didn’t touch him at all, so I’m not surprised that he got fast-tracked because he was so obviously ahead of others in his year.
“Every test he’s had, whether it was going up into the first team or playing for England age-group teams, he has risen to it.
“His tactical awareness for a kid of his age is really good so he can play in any position.
“He played a while as a wing-back, he can play as a 6, an 8, a 10 and he just knows where to be.
“He always wants the ball but what I really like about him is that he works hard and likes to put a foot in.”
By midway through last season, Wolverhampton Wanderers had seen enough to make Scott one of their transfer priorities. Following his appointment as head coach last autumn, the Premier League club’s then-manager Julen Lopetegui soon got on board with the idea of signing him.
There were discussions between the clubs in January but Wolves’ priorities lay in other areas so the move was shelved until this summer. The ongoing upheaval at Molineux allowed Bournemouth the opportunity to pounce.
The Cherries’ admiration for Alex Scott has endured over several years, beginning as an eight-year-old when he joined local rivals Southampton. There is a common misconception that Bournemouth had overlooked him when, in truth, they had tried to bring him in, but their academy held Category Three status at the time and did not have the same facilities or reputation as Southampton.
There is an expectation he will soon play for England at under-21 level, and a belief he will eventually become Bournemouth’s third senior England international, following in the footsteps of Lewis Cook and Callum Wilson.
Provided he continues on the trajectory many anticipate, he would demand a far higher transfer fee in future. This would fall in line with Bournemouth targeting young, hungry players who will retain or increase their market value.
What remains to be seen is how quickly Scott can adapt to the top flight and what role he ends up playing. Simpson is in no doubt he will maintain his habit of taking it in his stride.
“He’s someone who drives teams from back to front — a box-to-box player,” says the former Newcastle United defender.
“He can receive the ball off the back four but he can also receive it in the final third on the half-turn and play through balls.
“And he can run and tackle and make a pass, so he can be box-to-box.
“He reminds me, with the way he runs, of Jack Grealish — but Jack plays on the left now and Alex’s defensive game is better than Jack’s was at his age.
“He’s best as an 8. You don’t want to restrict him to being a 10 or a 6 because you can trust him at either end of the pitch, so you let him run up and down for the team and he will do that.
“To be trusted to play wing-back, which is a tough role, at such a young age, which Nigel did, speaks volumes. Wing-back is a difficult role, but Nigel knew he would get workrate from Alex and that he would be in the right place at the right time.
“As he gets older he will add more goals and assists to his game, but generally as an all-rounder he’s got the lot.
“He’s a good kid, and that’s the most important thing. He’s a normal kid and will go on to big things as long as he keeps his head right.
“And in a few years I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the England squad.”
Additional reporting: Jacob Tanswell
(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)