Captaining your nation at a World Cup is something we all dream of doing. This summer Steph Houghton achieved this when she lead out England during the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
One of the best English defenders of all time, Houghton has been in fine form this season and her brace for Manchester City at the weekend shows she can contribute in the final third as well.
The defender started her professional career at her local club Sunderland Ladies. In 2005-06 she helped Sunderland win promotion from the Northern Division, and in the following season Houghton won the FA Young Player of the Year award. Unfortunately, in the same season, Sunderland were relegated but interest grew in the star. After initial interest from Arsenal and Everton Ladies, she eventually joined Leeds United Ladies in 2007.
It was at Leeds United where the Durham-born defender picked up her first FA Women’s Cup medal. In the final at Spotland, home of Rochdale, Leeds beat Everton Ladies with goals from Katie Holtham and two from Ellen White. It was the first time Lilywhites had won the competition.
Houghton mainly played as a left-sided defender however, during her spell at the Yorkshire club, she occupied a number of different positions. This is a massive strength to her game. The fact she is so versatile enables her managers to utilise her in a number of different positions if needed.
Throughout her career Houghton was involved with England. She played for the Under-16 schools side before progressing through the different levels of English football featuring in the U-19, U-20, U-21 and U-23 sides. In 2006, she was given the call up to the senior squad but she was an unused substitute in Englands 5-1 defeat to Germany.
On March 8, 2007 she would make her international debut in a 6-0 win over Russia in Milton Keynes. It was only a cameo, replacing Emily Westwood after 73 minutes, but she did enough to impress Hope Powell and subsequently started the next game – a 1-0 win over Scotland.
Her form at Leeds once again attracted interest from bigger clubs and in August 2010 Houghton made the move to London to sign for Arsenal Ladies. During her spell at the Gunners she would lift the FA Women’s Cup, but this time she was the captain.
The defender was called up to the first Great Britain women’s side for the 2012 Summer Olympics. She went on to become the team’s record goalscorer. She netted in all three group games to help Great Britain progress with a 100% record. After the tournament, Houghton was named left-back of the tournament due to her impressive performances.
After three years with Arsenal, Houghton was linked with another move. On December 5, 2013 it was announced that she had signed an agreement to leave Arsenal and sign for the new WSL side Manchester City. Her move was competed on January 1, 2014. Shortly after her move, she was named the new captain for England under coach Mark Sampson. She began her time as captain with a 1-1 draw against Norway.
She was one of England’s best players at the 2015 World Cup. Houghton scored her first World Cup goal in the round of 16 win over Norway and was awarded Player of the Match during the quarter-final win over Canada.
Ever since her move to City, she has been a rock at the back. The centre-back signed a new contract with the Blues in May that will see her through until 2017.