Steph Houghton may be known as a defender but she holds the unlikely record of being the top scorer for Team GB. The Manchester City No.6 was one of the youngest members of the squad during the 2012 Olympics, but this time her role will be very different.
However, her ticket to Japan has not been as certain as you would usually expect. Houghton was, at times, a doubt to make the 18-player Team GB squad by Hege Riise after being sidelined with an achilles injury for the tail-end of the season.
Speaking on the Team GB media day, she reflected on her extended spell off the pitch.
“To be missing just over a month and a half worth of games is unlike me but there were lots of conversations behind the scenes in terms of ultimately my aim was to represent Team GB at the Olympics.”Embed from Getty Images
Over the nine-year period between the 2012 and 2020 Olympic Games, Houghton’s role within the landscape of women’s football has changed radically. The Man City captain acknowledged that during the 2012 Games in London, she had been one of the youngest players in a squad filled with the likes of Kelly Smith, Fara Williams and Alex Scott.
This time however, Houghton will be amongst the experienced voices guiding the younger players through their first Games. A challenge made even more difficult when considering the circumstances the Games will go ahead under.
This year will not have many of the usual experiences that athletes look forward to. The subject was something that Houghton had clearly paid mind to. The defender acknowledged that whilst players would usually have family and friends travelling to the Olympics to support them, she still felt the team would have backing despite no fans outside of Japan being able to travel.Embed from Getty Images
“Even though our families and all our fans can’t be there with us, I know they’ll be there with us back home.”
The tournament may be different, but the athletes will be hoping for the same support.
The centre-back has been England and Manchester City captain for the last seven years, leading her club and country through incredible victories and heartbreaking defeats. Houghton’s success is not something that the 33-year-old allows to pass her by.
“I’m just so proud of everything I’ve achieved over the past few years and I’m very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in and work with some amazing people so I think you have to pinch yourself.”
The defender’s quiet confidence in herself, her team and her manager is evident no matter whether she is representing Manchester City, England or Team GB.
Interim Lionesses head coach Riise was described by Houghton as being the best person to lead the team to victory in Tokyo.
“I just hope that I can help as many of my teammates in any way possible and be the best team player that I can be to hopefully let everyone enjoy the experience. It only happens every four years and we’ve got to first of all enjoy it and if we do that, we’ll play to the best of our ability.”