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Steph Houghton: England star 'extremely honoured' to make Euros longlist

Steph Houghton
Steph Houghton captained the Lionesses at the last three major tournaments

Manchester City captain Steph Houghton says she is “extremely honoured” to be named in England’s preliminary squad for the Women’s Euros and remains hopeful of making the final squad.

Houghton, 34, has not played since January through injury.

She was selected as part of a 28-player squad and has until mid-June to prove her fitness in time for the tournament.

“It’s been a tough few months and there is still a lot of hard work to go,” Houghton told BBC Sport.

“Of course I am extremely honoured. I’ve been fortunate to have the best people around me and the support of all the England staff to help with my recovery.

“I’m looking forward to the next few weeks, being a part of the camp and seeing where it takes us.”

Houghton captained England for eight years but will hand the armband over to Arsenal defender Leah Williamson for the Euros.

The City star is yet to feature under Sarina Wiegman for England but said they have a “really strong” relationship and have been in contact regularly throughout her recovery.

“England and Manchester City have been in constant dialogue on how I’ve been doing,” said Houghton.

“The relationship between me and Sarina is really good, really strong. She’s allowed me to focus on getting back fit and doing what I need to do.

“She is always on the end of the phone. I’ve been really fortunate that there’s been that communication and everyone is doing what’s best for me to give me the best chance of getting back for the Euros.”

Houghton has 121 appearances for England and captained the side in the past three major tournaments. She was also part of the Great Britain Olympic squad in 2012 and 2021 but hopes to make it to a sixth major tournament with England this summer.

“Yeah I’m hopeful. The injury I had was one that could keep me out for four to six months and obviously with the timing of the Euros it will be a push,” she said.

“How I’ve applied myself in the last few months and the sacrifices I’ve made to try to put myself in the best position – no matter what happens, I know I’ve done everything I possibly can to give myself the best chance.”

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‘I have to earn the right’

Steph Houghton and Leah Williamson in England training
Leah Williamson (right) will take over the captaincy this summer but Houghton still hopes to be involved

In Houghton’s absence, England have enjoyed an impressive unbeaten run under Wiegman, who took over in September.

They won the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup in February and sit top of their World Cup qualifying group, having scored 68 goals without reply.

“First and foremost I have to earn the right to be in the squad. We have a really talented squad and the competition is high,” said Houghton.

“I know I need to be able to show what I can do and I do feel as if I can still bring value to the squad. But I don’t want to be disrespectful to my team-mates. I need to fight my way in.

“The girls have done really well over the last couple of camps and I need to prove to Sarina that I can still play, still be a leader and can still use my experience in a home Euros.”

Houghton said she had endured “difficult days” during her recovery from injury but had spent time with family and worked with City and England’s physios to get stronger physically.

“For any footballer that’s injured it’s hard because you can’t really contribute on the pitch or do what you love. I won’t sit here and say it’s been easy because it hasn’t,” said Houghton.

“There have been difficult times and difficult days. I just have to get myself right to go and enjoy my football again.”

‘There will be a lot of pressure’

England players celebrate winning the Arnold Clark Cup
Houghton’s Manchester City team-mates celebrate winning the Arnold Clark Cup with England in February

Houghton hopes England can maintain their impressive form when the tournament starts on 6 July.

The Lionesses have reached the semi-finals of the past three major tournaments but hope to go one better in front of a home crowd this summer.

“Winning the Arnold Clark Cup was a massive confidence boost. With every game the girls seem to be getting better,” said Houghton.

“It’s important a lot of people get their rest now because it will be intense over the next eight weeks and there will be a lot of pressure. Hopefully we can show what we can do in a Euros and keep all of the England fans happy.”

Asked whether it will be the biggest tournament in women’s football history, Houghton said: “You know what, I really do think so. As players you get really excited but more so as fans.

“We’ve sold so many tickets and people are wanting to come and watch. It’s in our country so when I think about what the Olympics [in 2012] did for this game, I think the Euros can do twice as much in terms of putting us out there and getting people behind women’s football in England.”

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