Former Sunderland defender Houghton relieved to have support at Wembley

Steph Houghton.
Steph Houghton.
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WHEN Steph Houghton makes history by leading out her country before a huge Wembley crowd and watching TV millions tomorrow, she won’t be feeling pressure – just overwhelming relief that she managed to get tickets for her family and friends!

Fifty-five thousand tickets were snapped up for the England v Germany friendly clash – the first time the women’s team has played at the national stadium – and that figure would have been easily surpassed had transport issues not curtailed capacity.

“I had a real panic with the ticket situation,” said the former Sunderland Ladies player, now a full-time pro with Manchester City.

“But I’ve managed to get all the tickets I needed, so I’ve got about 30 people coming down from the North East.

“They always come and watch me whether it’s playing for Manchester City or England. They wouldn’t miss this game for the earth.

“I’m still getting loads of messages on Twitter about tickets. I can’t get any more tickets – it’s ridiculous!”

Such was demand for the friendly fixture against the two-time world champions, it is believed the attendance would have overtaken the 73,000 who watched Team GB women beat Brazil during the London Olympics. Steph, from South Hetton, scored the winner that day and believes the women’s game is now benefiting from that legacy.

“It’s amazing to sell so many tickets,” said the 26-year-old centre-back.

“But I think it shows just how much promotion we’ve had for this game and how much women’s football has come on, especially over the last two years since the Olympics.

“The interest has grown and the media are trying to push it so it just shows that, as players, we’re doing a really good job on the pitch. Behind the scenes, people are promoting it the right way to allow fans to come and enjoy it.”

It’s been a whirlwind year for the former Sunderland, Leeds and Arsenal star. Now a full-time pro, Steph captained City to Continental Cup victory last month and is enjoying the state-of-the-art facilities at the new City Football Academy.

“If you’re a young girl now, you’ve got so many opportunities in women’s football. There’s a very exciting feeling around women’s football and not just among the players.

“The staff and coaches that are coming in to the game want to do it properly and professionally. It’s great for the international set-up as well as we’ve got young girls getting coached properly from a young age so hopefully in the future we’ll have a lot of stars coming through,” Steph added.

After the Germany game, all the players will enjoy their end-of-season break before reporting back for club duty in the New Year. Then a busy club season will run into next summer’s World Cup in Canada.

“The next six months is going to be crucial in how we prepare,” said Steph, speaking at a media event for Continental Tyres, official partner to England Women and the FA WSL.

“We’ll have a few friendly games and we’ve just got to make sure that all the hard work we do in the gym or on the training pitch is worth it when you step out on a World Cup stage.”