WEARSIDE duo Jill Scott and Steph Houghton believe familiarity can see Team GB triumph in London after both were handed an Olympics golden ticket.
The former Sunderland Ladies pair were yesterday announced in the 18-strong squad for Britain’s inaugural appearance in the Olympics women’s football tournament after they had been told of their call-up by coach Hope Powell 24 hours earlier.
Scott and Houghton help to form an overwhelming England contingent in the squad with Scots Ifeome Dieke and Kim Little the only non-English players to be included.
But with England ranked ninth in the world, both Scott and Houghton have backed Powell’s selection, particularly as GB will be boosted by the presence of Arsenal midfielder Little, who has notched a stunning 60 goals in 63 appearances for the Gunners.
Scott told the Echo: “There were 35 players on the shortlist and any of those could have gone to the Olympics.
“But there were always going to be people left out and obviously I’m really pleased I’ve been selected.
“The majority are English and we’ve been together a while, but the two Scots are key additions. Kim Little is one of the best players in women’s football.
“It will be great for women’s football because at times, we don’t get that much publicity, so to be part of the Olympics will be massive.”
Houghton added: “I felt sick before the call came through but it’s such a relief and I’m really happy.
“I’m sure the squad will gel quickly. It obviously helps that it’s predominantly English players who have played together before.
“But the two Scottish girls will improve the squad and we have to make sure we are a GB squad, rather than an England squad, and then hopefully we can do something special.”
The inclusion of Sunderland’s Scott and South Hetton’s Houghton is a major boost to Wearside’s hopes of Olympic glory, with West Rainton-based trampolinist Kat Driscoll and Chester-le-Street swimmer Steph Proud the only other athletes from the area set to compete at the games.
And for two players who first lined up alongside each other at Sunderland’s academy 13 years ago, there is a joint sense of delight at their participation.
“Steph and I have played together since we were 12 at the Centre of Excellence and we’ve been good friends for quite a while,” said Everton midfielder Scott, 25.
“It will be great if we can get more press and publicity for women’s football in the North East.”
Arsenal’s Houghton, 24, said: “I’m delighted for Scotty who has been involved in squads for a lot of years.
“It’s nice for the North East that there’s two girls from this neck of the woods playing. It sends out a good message.”
Both Houghton and Scott started England’s back-to-back Euro 2013 qualifying victories over Holland and Slovenia earlier this month and will now finish the first half of the Super League season this weekend.
They will then link up with the GB squad on July 8, before facing a first warm-up game against Sweden at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on Friday, July 20.