Village people inspire Steph Houghton

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STEPH HOUGHTON admits stepping into the Olympic village has given Team GB an insight into the magnitude of their medal quest.

Houghton and fellow Wearsider Jill Scott are both expected to play a part in tomorrow afternoon’s friendly against Sweden at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, in the final warm-up game before the Olympics women’s football tournament.

The duo took part in a double training session at Boro’s Rockcliffe base yesterday after travelling from the Olympic village, in East London, on Tuesday.

Hope Powell’s squad were given a tour of the village and received motivational speeches from former England rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward and double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes.

And after rubbing shoulders with the likes of diver Tom Daley and Beijing gold medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, Houghton says the players have developed a renewed appreciation for what is at stake in Britain’s inaugural appearance in women’s football.

“I am still a bit speechless about the facilities there because it was so amazing,” Houghton told the Echo.

“We only went there for the day to get used to the atmosphere, but we had a speech from Clive Woodward, who was emphasising how we were one big team, while Kelly Holmes gave us an inspirational talk about how hard she worked to get a gold medal.

“All the girls were a bit humbled by that and realised what a special athlete she was.

“She was just saying how many people watch the Olympics and that the whole of Britain will be watching.

“It just made us realise how special this is going to be.”

Powell’s side beat South Africa 3-1 in a behind-closed-doors game on Sunday, but should face a far sterner test against Sweden in the first of a double-header at the Riverside (4pm), with the men’s side facing Brazil at 7.45pm.

Sweden, who finished third at last year’s World Cup, are ranked fourth in the world and will provide perfect preparation for GB’s opening Olympic group game against New Zealand, at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, next Wednesday.

Arsenal midfielder Houghton, from South Hetton, added: “Sweden are rightly ranked high in women’s football and they are going to be tough opposition.

“We know that we have to have a game plan in place to ensure we are fine to take on New Zealand.

“Everybody got a run-out the other day against South Africa, but the more important game is tomorrow.”

Tickets are still available for the Riverside, with prices starting at £30 (adults), £20 (over-65s) and £15 (under-16s).