FOOTBALL star Steph Houghton has been hailed as a “true role model” after becoming the first woman to appear on the front cover of a long-running magazine.
The 26-year-old, who is the captain of England, features on the front page of October’s edition of Shoot magazine.
It is the first time there has been a female cover star in the publication’s 45-year history.
Houghton, originally from South Hetton, says she was “honoured” to be selected by the magazine, and feels it is testament to the growth of the women’s game in the country.
The former Sunderland player said: “I’m over the moon.
“I found out on Wednesday and I was a bit surprised, as I’d done the interview but I didn’t realise I would be on the front cover.
“It’s a bit weird, because I always used to get the Shoot annuals for Christmas from my mum and dad.
“It just shows how much the women’s game has progressed over the last few years. A few people have asked for copies – including my grandma – so I’ll have to stock up.
“It does feel a bit strange, but I’m absolutely honoured.”
Steph started her career with Sunderland Ladies, and the club’s manager, Mick Mulhern, was glowing in his praise of her achievements.
He said: “She deserves this, and all at Sunderland Ladies are very proud of what she has achieved.
“She is a true role model for all girls who want to be involved in the sport they love.
“Her attitude and work ethic have got her to where she is in the women’s game, being captain of both her club and country.
“I’m sure there is a lot more to come from her in the future.”
Steph has also played for Arsenal and Leeds, and captained the Great Britain side, which caught the imagination in the 2012 Olympic Games.
The former Hetton School pupil will also be a key part of the Three Lionesses squad which travels to Canada for next summer’s World Cup.
Next month, the 50-times capped international will lead England out at Wembley for the first time, when they take on Germany on November 23.
Dan Tyler, deputy editor of Shoot Magazine, said: “Choosing a women’s footballer to be Shoot’s first female cover star in our 45-year history has, for many, taken longer than it should’ve done.
“It’s not an easy decision for any publication to make, because the popularity and pull of the men’s Premier League is too powerful to ignore.
“However, after securing a feature with Steph Houghton, we decided she was the perfect person to break the mould.
“There was no better person, male or female, to star on our October edition.”