Ex-England captain Steph Houghton to retire at the end of the season | Football

Steph Houghton will retire at the end of the season (Picture: Getty)

Manchester City defender Steph Houghton, formerly the captain of England, has announced that she is set to hang up her boots at the end of the current Women’s Super League campaign.

Houghton, 35, has been capped 121 times at international level and last played for the Lionesses in 2021.

The veteran centre-back, who turns 36 next month, is also City’s all-time record appearance holder and has helped the side win eight pieces of silverware since her arrival in 2014.

Houghton led England to a third-placed finish at the 2015 World Cup in Canada and previously represented Arsenal, Leeds Carnegie and Sunderland at club level.

‘There is no easy way to say it, but I am retiring from football at the end of the current WSL season,’ Houghton revealed in a statement on her official website.

‘Taking the decision to retire, is such a difficult thing to do. Whilst age comes to every player, it makes it no easier having to say the words out loud. Football has been my life; my passion and I have loved the career I have had.

‘I would like to thank every teammate I have ever played with; I have continued to learn every day and appreciate the support each has given me and the friendships I have made along the way.

‘To my managers, coaches and all the staff that I have worked with and under, I appreciate the time, effort and work you have dedicated to improving my game and the standards of women’s football.’

Steph Houghton

The former England captain has been capped 121 times with the Lionesses (Picture: Getty)

Houghton said it had been a ‘privilege’ to play for Sunderland, Leeds and Arsenal before City and thanked her fans for the love and support they had shown down the years.

‘It has been an honour and a privilege to represent Sunderland, Leeds, Arsenal and to have been on the incredible journey that I have been on, with Manchester City over the past ten years,’ she added.

‘I will always be humbled to have made so many domestic appearances, to have captained my country and to have represented England and Team GB in so many international tournaments. I will always be very proud of everything that I have achieved in the game.

‘To all the fans, I have never taken your support for granted. The special feeling of hearing “Super Steph” will forever live with me.’

Houghton led England to a third-placed finish at the 2015 World Cup

Houghton hopes she departs with ‘the game in a better place’ and described her husband Stephen Darby as her ‘inspiration’, with the ex-Bradford and Bolton footballer retiring in 2018 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

‘The game has moved so quickly from amateur to professional over the last twenty years. I thank the trailblazers that came before me, for your perseverance and commitment to effecting change for my generation,’ Houghton continued.

‘I hope that I leave the game in a better place than when I started, and that I have contributed in some small way to giving the girls of tomorrow a better future in football.

The centre-back is City’s all-time record appearance holder (Picture: Getty)

‘My biggest thanks, appreciation and love belongs to my husband and inspiration, Stephen, my mam, my dad, my brother Stuart, the rest of my family, Matthew Buck, and all my closest friends for your love, guidance, understanding and support – it has been my constant.

‘I am excited for whatever comes next but, in the meantime, I remain focused on giving everything I have left for Manchester City, over the next two months.’

City head coach Gareth Taylor paid tribute to Houghton, claiming the defender had ‘paved the way’ for young female footballers to ‘thrive in the future’.

‘Steph is – without question – an icon of the game,’ Taylor said.

‘Although her professional career on the pitch is now coming to an end, her legacy will be felt for so many years to come.

‘She has paved the way for so many to thrive in the future.’

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