STEPH Houghton has dedicated a top title to the friends and family who have helped her make a success of life on the pitch.
The 24-year-old collected the FA’s England Women’s Player of the Year award at a ceremony attended by some of the biggest names in the game.
She beat Wearsider and Everton player Jill Scott and Lincoln Ladies’ Casey Stoner in the category, voted for via the association’s Facebook fans.
It follows a year which saw her score three times for Team GB in the London Olympics and help win the FA’s Woman Super League and cup double with Arsenal Ladies.
Steph, from South Hetton, paid tribute to parents Len and Amanda and brother Stuart, 20, as she celebrated the win.
She said: “I was nominated by the public, and it makes it a lot more special that the people who come and see you week in and week out voted. It’s a huge honour.
“I didn’t expect it, to be honest, going up against Jill and Casey, and I’m still in shock, but I’m delighted and it’s capped off an amazing year. I hope this one will be just as good.
“My phone hasn’t stopped. All my family are really delighted – my mam, dad and brother. It’s as much recognition for them. They are the people who are there 24/7 and it goes to them.
“I want to say a massive thank-you for all those who voted and all my family and friends for their support during the last year, it’s very much appreciated.”
The awards night also gave her the chance to meet her idol, England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who collected the England Player of the Year title.
Former Hetton School student Steph, who travelled straight back to London after the awards to appear in an Arsenal Ladies’ friendly yesterday, added: “It was the first time I met him and it was quite special because he’s my hero, the player I look up to, and I picked up the same award – Player of the Year – for the women.
“He was really nice. He said ‘congratulations’.”
Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck, who spent a season on loan to Sunderland AFC, was awarded the second place prize for Player of the Year, followed by Chelsea defender Ashley Cole.