Houghton is football's Jill of all trades

Arsenal prospect's versatility is in stark contrast to more stubborn home nations in run-up to Olympics

As far as her football career is concerned, Steph Houghton is all over the place. In the best possible way. Here, there, anywhere is her patch on the pitch, a one-woman Total Footballer.

"Her versatility is just amazing," says England's head coach Hope Powell of the 23-year-old Arsenal Ladies dynamo. "She can play in defence, midfield, up front, it wouldn't surprise me if she could play in goal. She is your complete player. She's got a good engine, she can distribute well – both short and long – she has a bit of flair, she can head and she can tackle. I think potentially she has everything needed to be a world-class player."

That is some testimony for the Durham-born blonde whose renowned versatility was on show for Arsenal in their 2-0 victory over Bristol Academy to win the FA Cup final yesterday. When I watched her in the Champions' League against Sweden's Linkopings recently, helping Arsenal to reach the semi-finals, she was a scampering, overlapping full-back. But she says: "To be honest, I am not really bothered where I play, but it is usually across the back or in midfield. It just depends."

She has been kicking a ball since she was four. "I started in the yard and I also used to play with friends in the street," she says. "I kind of liked all sports, even a bit of cricket, but football was always the one for me. I got scouted for Sunderland's Centre of Excellence when I was about 10 and played for Sunderland Women when I was 14. I started up front but since then I've moved around a bit."

After leaving college in Durham she went to Loughborough University (she has a sports science degree) and joined Leeds. "I was there for four years and last summer I moved to Arsenal. It was a bit of a wrench at first, coming to London, because I am really a home girl but the opportunities are huge with the WSL [the new World Women's Super League, in which Arsenal currently stand second], the World Cup and European qualifiers this year and, of course, the Olympics. It is also the best club in the country so it was an offer that I couldn't really turn down. In football there's always something you want to achieve and as an individual I have always wanted to improve."

She has won 16 England caps since she was 18, and would have been in the last World Cup squad but she broke her leg tripping over a hurdle in training two days before it was selected and was out for four months. She ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament before the European Championships too, which took nine months to heal. "I have had a rough time with injuries but luckily I have had my friends and family around me to pick me up. When I scored my first England goal against South Africa a couple of years ago, it was a great feeling."

Now the Gunner girl's targets are the World Cup in Germany and next year's London Olympics. "Obviously we don't know the composition of the team yet but I would love to be in it. There's a great spirit in the England squad. There are a few Arsenal and Everton girls, but there's nothing cliquey – we all get on well together. The Olympics will be great for women's football and will really boost the game in this country."

Indeed they will, but whether Team GB will be exactly that or simply all-English remains an irritating question as the other home nation associations insist on barring both their male and female players from participating.

Powell, whose stewardship coincides with 50 per cent growth in the women's game in the last five years – football is now Britain's number one female sport – admits frustration at the situation. "There are players from the other home nations playing for English clubs and I imagine they are hoping to be included. The discussions are obviously ongoing but I don't know any more than anyone else about what is happening."

Houghton says Powell has been her greatest inspiration: "She has done so much for the women's game and the fact that we have qualified for so many major tournaments is evidence of that." Powell adds: "Steph still has some way to go because she has been stifled a bit by injuries before major tournaments. It is unfortunate that she has missed out on that exposure and experience but you have to really admire the way she has worked hard to put herself in the position again of not only being in the squad in the past few months but to give herself the best opportunity to be selected for the World Cup.

"She has grown in stature and being such an all-purpose player has given her confidence. She is a natural athlete who works hard at her fitness, she has good pace and awareness. I am very pleased that she is such a great prospect for the future."

Women's football is now much more professional in every sense of the word and like the rest of the England squad, Houghton is on a full-time contract. A cricket fan, she has a brother who plays rugby league for Gateshead, while her boyfriend is a policeman. As you might expect, her role model is David Beckham. She can even bend it a bit like him, too.

British Olympic Association

The British Olympic Association are the national Olympic committee for Britain and Northern Ireland. They prepare the "Best of British" athletes for the summer, winter and youth Olympics, and deliver extensive support services to Britain's Olympic athletes and their national governing bodies. Go to olympics.org.uk

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes