From coming through the ranks at boys’ clubs to playing for Scotland, 18-year-old Paige McAllister has come a long way since she first started playing football at the age of five.
McAllister signed for the women of steel in 2021 after an impressive period at Hearts while out on loan from Celtic.
The defender’s defensive efforts with Motherwell haven’t gone unnoticed as she was called up to January’s Scotland training camp, meaning she has now been called up for every national level she has been eligible for apart from the main adult team.
“When I started playing women’s football, I was with Celtic’s under 17s at 14 years old. I was a bit nervous because I was playing and training with the older ones but once I went in for my first trial I felt alright, and over time I became more confident in my ability and myself as a player.
“Once I got accepted by Celtic and I settled into the squad I got my first Scotland call ups. I’ve now been called up for the under 15s, under 16s, under 17s and under 19s, and I received my first call up when I was around 14 or 15.
“Since then, I have been involved with various training camps spanning the different age group. I joined the under 17s team in the Championship and I even got a goal.”
When discussing what it was like to be invited to take part on international duty McAllister added: “It’s always an honour to be called up to play for your country but I wasn’t expecting to be called up to the January training camp. I had picked up a really bad injury and I thought the under 19s campaign was finished.
“It was a brilliant feeling being invited to the camp. It’s a huge honour to be considered and an even bigger one to be invited away.
“It’s great being away with the girls, it lets you meet and talk to players you may not have had the chance to engage with before, especially if there are new faces in the squad because it lets you form some good friendships and create memories.
“This year it was a bit different because of Covid, you had to stay in your hotel rooms when you weren’t training, and we had to make sure we were social distancing and keeping to the Covid protocols in place but those bonds you make on the pitch stick with you.
“I never take it for granted, I never expect it, so every time feels just as good as the first.”
McAllister may have only scored two goals in the SWPL overall, but she got her first-ever professional goal for Scotland which saw her country win 4-1 against Northern Ireland in October 2019.
“I think I blacked out after I scored it to be honest,” she explained. “I scored the goal, and everyone started running to me to celebrate and I kind of just stood still. I was in complete shock. It was so unexpected, and it easily became one of the best days of my life.”
International duty can show players different tactics and styles they may not have utilised while playing at their clubs. It is something McAllister is keen to draw on.
Having the likes of Leanne Crichton, who has been to major tournaments with the Scotland national team, alongside her will undoubtedly help in her development, and she is also looking to draw on the experience of others.
“International football is obviously different from club football,” she said, “I’ve felt myself improve after being away as it gives you different perspectives and ways of developing your game.
“I definitely encourage the other girls to try to push themselves so they can have the opportunity to be called up. I would say to young players to keep working hard as it is possible.
“Getting game time is so important, which is why I’m extremely grateful for Motherwell giving me the opportunity. Our improved form this season has definitely contributed.”
This summer, former Scottish internationalist Crichton joined both the coaching and playing staff at Motherwell.
Hailed as one of the most influential female players of her generation, the 34-year-old earned 72 caps and has been a hugely inspirational figure for the Women of Steel.
“Paul [Brownlie] and Crichton have been great at taking me on board and helping me advance as a player,” said McAllister.
“They are all about helping youth players with game time and becoming the best that they can be by giving me experience. That then helps me prove to both myself and the Scotland coaches that I am a strong player, and I am good enough to be playing.
“I definitely believe that Crichton’s experience, as well as being an internationalist, has rubbed off on to the rest of the team. She has brought so much to the group, and the older more seasoned players, as well as the younger ones, have all learned something from her.
“I have also learned things on international duty that I’ll try to show the rest of the team so we can all progress as one unit.
“Crichton has experienced a lot over her playing career and being able to learn from a player of her calibre is honestly amazing. She is a great inspiration to us as players and to a lot of young girls overall. Having her as a team-mate and coach is wonderful.
“I’ve learned a lot during my time at Motherwell and I hope I can continue to improve and keep our good run of form going for the rest of the season.”