Hats off Skip. (by Charlotte Stacey)
Having recently led the Lionesses to the World Cup semi-finals, and with Manchester City currently at the top of the table in the WSL, defender Steph Houghton has undoubtedly proven her importance in the women's game. Captain for club and country, Houghton is fast becoming a household name, and deservedly so.
Steph Houghton serves as a symbol of hope on a football pitch. Her experience, and consequent constant presence, does much to calm any tension felt by players and fans alike. It is her ability to remain collected, under a multitude of circumstances, that allows one to take comfort in knowing that when Houghton is on the field, no matter the outcome, it will be ok.
A naturally defensive player, Houghton isn't afraid to get her hands, or rather her feet, dirty. Houghton's devotion to defending her line is exceptional, and her commitment to keeping threatening play out of the box, more often than not, sees her as the last woman standing. Houghton is no stranger to a crucial late challenge, nor to clearing the ball off the line in the absence of a keeper.
Adeptly taking hold of a game without hesitation, Houghton's ability to orchestrate pace, flow and tactical play is an innate gift of hers. Her ever present optimism allows her to retain a composure and level headedness when things are perhaps not going her way. Even when on the losing end, or when under intense pressure, Houghton does not display any signs of discontent. In fact, the threat of a loss only seems to have a positive impact on Houghton's play.
A born leader, Houghton is the backbone of every team she plays with. Her performance in the World Cup demonstrated the true character of a world class skipper. In what can only be described as a bizarre game against Cameroon, Houghton reacted with paramount sportsmanship. Taking the reins, Houghton kept a firm hold on what could have easily escalated into a complete debacle of a match.
Unafraid to turn her hand to a set piece, Houghton will always step up when the time calls. Boasting a fair scoring record for a centre-back, Houghton has a unique knack of hitting the back of the net from an almost unworkable close range. Yet even when the result of such pieces are ill-fated, Houghton does not deter from the job in hand. Houghton has an unwavering resilience in the face of hardship, and whilst there is always time for reflection, there is no room to dwell on what might have been. Chin up, move forward, is always the message received.
Whilst there is no denying that Houghton is a masterful player, it is her dedication to her sport and her belief in her team that pushes her toward greatness. Houghton is certainly a player of great importance on the field, but off the pitch she truly is an inspiration. With the rise of the women's game, it is Steph Houghton that young girls and boys look to.
With the SheBelieves Cup, Olympics and Euro's looming, there is, unquestionably, no one better to guide us forward.
Lead the way Skip, we're right behind you.
by Charlotte Stacey