ENGLAND captain Steph Houghton is looking forward to a sort of homecoming this week!
Houghton’s Manchester City side are the visitors to Eppleton CW on Wednesday in Sunderland’s first home game of the WSL1 season.
I’m really looking forward to going back. It’s where I’m from.
But, unfortunately, the former Lady Black Cat won’t be on the pitch, as she is recovering from a knee injury.
It’s been eight years since Houghton left her childhood club to make her way to the top of the game, but she remains a very proud Wearsider.
“I always look out for how they’re doing,” she admitted.
“It’s always a club that I will be thankful for – how they helped me in the early stages of my career.
“I had some really good times there.
“The fact that Sunderland are in our league now is great.
“I’m really looking forward to going back. It’s where I’m from.”
During her formative years at school in South Hetton, Houghton mixed it with the boys when it came to football.
Often draped in the red and white of her beloved Sunderland, Houghton blended in perfectly.
A problem was looking to make a future in the game, but women’s football has developed quickly sincve the launch of the Super League.
“I never really knew much about the women’s game growing up,” she admitted.
“I was always just very much focused on the men’s team. The role models were David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and I’m a big Sunderland fan – so Kevin Phillips.
“I think now it’s a great opportunity for young girls to have a lot of role models. They can look at them and think ‘OK, I can play football and have something to aim for’.”
Houghton spent 10 years with the Black Cats before signing for Leeds United Ladies in 2007.
Following a successful three-year spell in Yorkshire, where she lifted the Premier League Cup in 2010, she signed for Arsenal Ladies before swapping allegiances once more in December, 2013, to pen a deal at Manchester City.
She became an England regular and in April last year was named the new England captain, replacing Casey Stoney.
Houghton led her country to qualification for this summer’s World Cup in Canada with 10 group wins out of 10 games.
While some of the qualifying opposition was weak, it will be a different story at the finals, though Houghton is aiming high.
“Everybody dreams of doing well at a World Cup.” she enthused. “We’ve got a great opportunity of doing that this year.
“We hope that the whole country will be behind us.
“We know that we have to be a bit realistic. We’ve got a tough group and we need to work really, really hard between now and the beginning of June when the competition starts – and even harder when we get out there.
“But I think all the girls are very confident and we can’t wait to be part of the competition in Canada.”