Jill Scott: Legendary Lioness shares why “My grandmother literally is my best friend.”

Euros-winning Lioness and Queen of the Jungle Jill Scott tells Sweet Pea why she cherishes her relationship with her grandmother as much as all the sporting greatness she’s achieved.

Jill Scott and her Nan

Jill Scott and her Grandma Jean. Photo credit: Tetley

Part of England’s 2022 European Championship-winning Lionesses, combative former Sunderland, Everton and Manchester City midfielder Jill Scott MBE won 161 caps for her country before her retirement and has since gone on to have a successful TV career as a football pundit on the BBC and a team captain on the Sky One sports quiz A League of Their Own. She also won the 2022 edition of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and is engaged to Shelly Unitt, who she runs a coffee shop with near her home in Manchester.

You live in Manchester now, but what’s the first thing you do when you return to your hometown of Sunderland?

I always go straight to my grandma’s house and have a cup of tea with her, especially as life’s been quite hectic recently, in a good way. It’s just nice to sometimes pause and reset and realise what’s important.

Why is your nan so special to you?

She literally is my best friend. I know people throw that around, but we just get on so well. She’s 89 now, so that’s a big age gap, and she lives by herself and is so quick-witted.

Do you spend a lot of time laughing?

Definitely, she always makes me laugh so much, and she comes out with some proper funny stuff, and it’s not just that, ‘Oh, I should laugh as it’s my grandma,’ she’s properly funny, and I love her more than anything.

Jill Scott and Grandmother

Jill and Jean share a cup of their favourite brew together. Photo credit: Tetley

Were you close when you were growing up?

When I was nine or ten, she moved away to Sussex, and I found all my letters from her the other day as we used to be pen pals. From a very, very early age, we just had this special bond, and I think she’s an incredible woman.

What do you call your grandma?

Her name is Jean Redford, and we all call her grandma, but she’s actually called The Ganny! We’re always like, ‘Shall we go to The Ganny’s house?’

She’s got a really small living room, but we get about sixteen people in there sometimes, and it’s absolute chaos, and she always jokes, ‘I know I say I want to see you all more, but when there’s that many of you squeezing in here I can’t wait for you’s to go.’

She’s very to the point.

Which traits do you share with your grandma?

I don’t think she ever kicked a football, but a lot of people say I’m humble and grounded like she is, which makes me happy.

I try not to get too carried away with life, and whatever amazing experiences I might be having, the space I feel safest in is with my family and my grandma.

And not that I’m bigging myself up, but people do say that I’m quite quick-witted, and she’s definitely the master of that, so maybe I’ve picked that up from her.

 

Jean Redford.Watching the Lionesses

Grandma Jean watching the Lionesses in action. Photo credit: Instagram @jillscottjs8

How supportive has she been on your football journey?

She’s always been my biggest fan. She’s got this red book that she has collected cuttings in since I was in nursery and was in the paper when I was about three years old.

She’s collected every single article since. So, whenever anyone she’s not met comes around the house, she gets out her red book and shows them. It’s like This Is Your Life.

She’s just very, very proud and asks me to leave some signed photos, so if someone comes round to fix the TV, she’ll give them a pic of me.

It’s really sweet, but it does feel like I’ve died sometimes, as there are so many photos of me in there. It’s like a shrine.

She’s also always been a sounding board for me when I’ve wanted to discuss things, which has been incredibly valuable. And just having her there and knowing that she loved me whatever was so important to me.

I’ve told my grandma everything in terms of football, because I feel like she’ll never judge me no matter what I do, no matter what decision I make.

She’ll always think I’m the best person and it’s so important to have someone like that in your life who they’re not bothered about the success side or whatever else.

They’re just proud of you as a family member or granddaughter, and that’s why our bond is so special.

 

Grandma Jean meets Sarina Wiegman

Grandma Jean meets Sarina Wiegman. Photo credit: Instagram @jillscottjs8

What lessons do you think people can learn from the older generation?

I think listening to the stories of the older generation’s struggles can help us realise how lucky we are, and sometimes it’s really valuable to take a break from technology and the pace of modern life to take a step back and listen to some wisdom.

She’s taught me to be grateful for the little things in life because she definitely didn’t have it easy.

She had three kids under the age of three living in one room above a shop, and that makes you realise how easy it is to take things for granted.

She always brings me back to reality. But it works both ways. Sometimes, I tell my nan how things have changed so we learn from each other.

When the Lionesses won the Euros, the first person you name-checked on live TV was your grandma. Was that planned or spontaneous?

She was just in my mind, because as soon as we’d won you go back to that feeling of feeling so happy and I could just imagine her watching the TV.

Obviously, I couldn’t phone her at that moment, so I just wanted to get a message to her as I knew she’d be beaming with pride.

I knew she’d be alone as she likes to watch the games on her own so she can concentrate, so that was a special moment for me.

 

Jill in action as a TV pundit. Photo credit: Instagram @jillscottjs8

You’re engaged to Shelly. How pivotal will your grandma be in your wedding plans?

She was one of the first people I told when I got engaged, and she’ll definitely be on that top table.

A lot of the plans will probably centre around my grandma. Like, where we’ll have the wedding and what will be easy for her because I think it will be special for her to be there.

The younger generation aren’t always keen to spend time with the older generation. Why should they perhaps reconsider that mentality?

A lot of elderly people do get lonely, so it’s important that we check in on them because they can go days sometimes without seeing people. You don’t realise that when you’re in that situation that can sometimes escalate into feeling like they haven’t seen anybody for a week, ten days.

I think it’s just so important for young people so get around your grandma’s, stick the kettle on, put your iPhone away, and just have a good chat with your grandparents, because they are very, very special moments. Make sure you make the most of them moments.

 

Why are intergenerational relationships potentially so valuable?

My relationship with my grandma has provided me with a best friend.

I think about the amount of things I’ve learned from her that I’ve taken into my life, and then the things that I’ve experienced that maybe she didn’t get the opportunity to do.

But the fact that I can share those stories with her and say, ‘this is what things are like now,’ because the world’s changed a lot from when she was born.

So, we can educate the older generation, and they can educate us. If you have a chance to still see your grandparents, I would savour every moment you have with them.

 

Jill Scott, the new voice of Tetley, joins Britain’s iconic tea brand as they aim to deliver one million ‘That’s Better, That’s Tetley’ moments to community groups and individuals across the UK. Tetley found that 57% of Brits think it’s the little things, like having a cup of tea, which improves their mood the most. To nominate a community group or individual head to www.thatsbetterthatstetley.co.uk