Sarina Wiegman speaks up for ‘disappointed’ Steph Houghton

The England boss has spoken of her respect for the Manchester City player.

Phil Medlicott
Thursday 07 April 2022 13:49 BST
Steph Houghton had captained England since 2014 (John Walton/PA).
Steph Houghton had captained England since 2014 (John Walton/PA). (PA Archive)

Sarina Wiegman has emphasised the respect she has for Steph Houghton after making the decision to hand Leah Williamson the England captaincy for this summer’s home Euros.

It was announced on Tuesday that Williamson, who has had the armband under Wiegman in Houghton’s injury-enforced absence, had been named skipper for the tournament that gets under way on July 6.

Houghton later posted a message on social media saying she understood and respected Wiegman’s decision and paid tribute to the “very deserving” Williamson, while also stressing her hope of making the squad for this summer.

The 33-year-old Manchester City defender, who had captained England since 2014 and to three major tournament semi-finals, is recovering after undergoing Achilles surgery in February.

Lionesses boss Wiegman said of Houghton at a press conference ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier away to North Macedonia: “She took it (the news) very well, I think really as a leader.

“Of course she’s disappointed because she has been captain for so long and has done a tremendous job. I have lots of respect for her.

“But she also knows, and that’s what we talked about too, she hasn’t joined this team for a long time. She came in September and had to leave because of an injury. She started playing with her club in January again and then she had to step out again. So she has missed so many things.

“Also we hope she will get fit. But then she still has to be fit, to perform, then she’s starting to compete if she gets fit, to hopefully compete for making the squad.

“That’s too hard to wait for that, and with all the things we’ve done during the season, I thought this wasn’t the moment to wait, and appoint the captain.

“She takes it step by step and that’s how we approach it together, and we’ll see how far she gets.

“I think Leah did a great job, she’s a very good player, she connects people on and off the pitch – so that’s why I made her the captain.”

Sarina Wiegman’s England play North Macedonia on Friday in Skopje (Mike Egerton/PA).
Sarina Wiegman’s England play North Macedonia on Friday in Skopje (Mike Egerton/PA). (PA Wire)

Williamson has travelled with the squad to Skopje but will not feature on Friday due to concussion protocol – she could then be involved when England face Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Tuesday.

She took a knock from a ball to the side of her head during Arsenal’s 5-0 win at Leicester on Sunday, of which she played the full duration.

Wiegman said: “She’s doing well. She came in (to the) camp good, but we didn’t want to take any risks. She had a little bit of a headache so we take the medical protocols, which means she just needs to take a little more time in her programme to build her up. No duels, no heading, so she’s not ready for the game (on) Friday. She’s getting prepared for the Tuesday game.”

Asked if head injuries were looked after properly in the game, Wiegman said: “I think so. We just took her from Sunday evening when she came in. From that we have been really aware of the situation and doing the right things. I think she’s in a good place.”

Williamson (left) will not feature against North Macedonia due to concussion protocol (Nick Potts/PA).
Williamson (left) will not feature against North Macedonia due to concussion protocol (Nick Potts/PA). (PA Wire)

Millie Bright, who has been named vice-captain, is set to skipper the side on Friday.

The Chelsea defender said: “It’s a massive honour. I’m extremely proud of Leah, she’s been absolutely amazing. It is fully deserved.

“I don’t we have to work too hard in being on the same page, we get on really well and I think we have the same mindset on the pitch. I think we work off each other really well.”

Manchester City’s Alex Greenwood and Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy have withdrawn from the squad – the defenders have returned to their clubs for rehabilitation on an ongoing knee issue and to manage a thigh injury respectively.

Everton defender Gabby George has been recalled to the senior set-up – she won the two caps she has to her name to date in 2018.

England currently top their six-team qualification group with six wins from as many games, 53 goals scored and none conceded. They opened their campaign by beating North Macedonia 8-0 in Southampton last September, their first match under Wiegman.

Ellen White, who became the Lionesses’ record scorer in November, heads into these matches one goal away from reaching 50 for the team.

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