OLYMPIAN Steph Houghton was given a winner’s welcome when her home village held a surprise party in her honour.
South Hetton staged the celebration to mark the achievements of the 24-year-old player during London 2012, where she scored three goals as part of the Team GB women’s football side.
About 150 of her friends and family gathered for the party at the County Durham community’s cricket club, which was decked out with flags decorated with her face and included a slideshow of her best moments during the matches.
Her pals decided to hold the event not just in recognition of her appearance at the Olympics, but for the work she has done to raise the profile of women’s football.
Councillor Robin Todd, who represents the village on Durham County Council, gave a speech to say how proud South Hetton was of her.
A series of photographs, put together by best friends Lauren Lang, 23, Emma Conway, 24, and her cousin Amy Houghton, 24, who planned the festivities alongside Emma’s mum Marie, was also on display.
The women had a bracelet engraved with the Olympic rings and Steph’s athlete number as a lasting memento of her part in the tournament, which saw the Team GB women reach the quarter final.
Lauren, who went to South Hetton Primary and Hetton School with Steph – and also played alongside her in Sunderland Academy’s ladies side – said: “The cricket club has been the place were we all watched the games together.
“All the community, but mainly the women of the village, wanted to give her a welcome back.
“She’s just put the place on the radar and we’re just really proud of her.
“Everyone here’s seen her grow up and known she’s always been sporty and seen her come through the games.
“We also wanted to give her some recognition how much she means to us.”
Partygoers managed to keep the celebration a secret from Steph.
“I didn’t have a clue,” she said. “We just turned up and I got told to go through the door first.
“I was very shocked but just so pleased. It was a big surprise, but a really good night and I’m just glad everybody came.”
Steph, whose London 20212 achievements included scoring against Brazil at Wembley, said: “The Olympics was an amazing experience, something I will always remember.
“You actually can’t put into words how good it was.
“I would love to go an do it all over again.”
In celebration of the achievements of competitors from Team GB and ParalympicsGB, about 800 athletes will travel on 21 floats in a special celebration procession in London on September 10
The Our Greatest Team Parade will leave London’s Mansion House at 1.30pm and will travel past Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch and into The Mall.