Nikki Alexander-Lloyd and Ali Howie have both announced their retirement from international hockey. Both players made their debut for Scotland in the same match against South Africa in 2012 and Howie went on to win 93 caps and Alexander-Lloyd won 130 caps. They have been fantastic players for Scotland and great ambassadors for the sport.
Ali Howie said, “I’ve been thinking about it for a while so it’s not a spur of the moment decision. I’ve been out injured for over a year, and when you know, you know.
“I feel genuinely honoured and proud to have represented my country. I will remember, with a smile, every single time that I pulled on the shirt and sang the national anthem.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Alexander-Lloyd. She said, “I feel really sad retiring but I want to go out on a high and at the top of my game. I’m so proud of my time playing for Scotland; I’ve been selected for every major tournament and to be able to do that consistently over the years is a thing of pride for me. So to retire while I can still be on a par with players half my age is how I’d like to finish. It’s time to let the next generation come through.
Their debuts both came against South Africa, which featured current Scotland women’s Head Coach Jen Wilson, at Clydesdale in a 1-1 draw. It was a goal scoring debut for Alexander-Lloyd, bagging Scotland’s equaliser in the dying seconds. She recalled the moment, “I remember running back to the half way line after the goal, and Cat Ralph had her arm around my shoulder, and thinking – this is cool!”
For Howie it was a sentimental occasion as the match was held on the pitch of her club side Clydesdale. She added, “It was great, though I was really nervous. I remember there was a piper playing the anthem. It was really good because the game was at Clydesdale, which is where I’d played with my club for years. So many players get their first cap playing far away from home so to get my first cap there, with all my family and friends watching, was really good.”
Howie’s first goal for Scotland also came against South Africa when they later met in Edinburgh, but it was a goal on the big stage that stands out in her memories. “My goal against New Zealand at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games was my favourite despite the result. To score a goal on an occasion like that in front of a massive crowd is a bit special for me.”
Alexander-Lloyd’s favourite goal in a Scotland shirt was also in the Gold Coast; a tremendous solo run and finish against Ghana in a 5-0 win. “Scoring at Gold Coast was like an out of body experience. I’ll never forget it. I remember Kaz Cuthbert just running at me screaming. It was amazing to score a goal like that at a Commonwealth Games and have my parents there to see it.”
It would turn out that playing in the Gold Coast in a 4-2 win against Malaysia was Howie’s last appearance in a Scotland shirt; she suffered a broken kneecap in a match for Clydesdale three days after returning from the Commonwealth Games and has been on the long road to recovery since then.
She plans to stay in hockey and start back playing with her club in September. “I’d like to thank to my employers for supporting me with time off over the years and to my friends and family for all their support. I want to say a big thank you to all the players, coaches and all the support staff for making my time with the squad so special.”
The next challenge for Alexander-Lloyd will see her moving into coaching with Blackheath & Elthamians men’s team. It’s a challenge Alexander-Lloyd is really looking forward to.
“I’d like to thank everyone at Scottish Hockey; the Institute of Sport; coaching staff; all the players I played with, especially Kaz for being an amazing captain and friend; all the sponsors; and my family and husband for the endless support even when I was never there.”
Scotland women’s Head Coach Jen Wilson said, “Ali Howie has been a great servant to the game. Although I have not had the opportunity to work with her as Head Coach she has shown incredible dedication to return after a very tough, long-term injury. She has had an exceptional playing career and I have no doubt she will stay connected to the game and Scottish Hockey to continue inspiring many.
“Nikki Alexander-Lloyd Has shown great progress and superb impact moments over the last year and this adds to her many significant years of play for Scotland. She has achieved significant milestones that any international player would be really proud of. She has helped stretch younger players and challenged them to blossom and has certainly inspired many to follow in her footsteps. I wish her all the best in her next adventure.”