Former England captain Steph Houghton has insisted she will keep pushing for a World Cup place but wants “closure” on whether or not she is part of Sarina Wiegman’s plans, opening up in a rare interview about her “tough” experience while frozen out of the national squad.
Houghton was included in Wiegman’s first England squad, in September 2021, and initially named as skipper, but suffered an Achilles injury during training that month and has not played for England under the Dutchwoman. The 121-times-capped centre-back missed most of last season injured, and was left out of 2022’s Euros. She has started regularly for Manchester City in 2023 but has remained out of England’s squad even when injury cover has been required at centre-back.
“It’s hard when you’re travelling on the bus back from Arsenal and they [Man City team-mates] are packing their suitcases to go to England camp. For me to experience that, it’s quite tough,” Houghton told BBC 5 Live Sport. “Yes, it is frustrating from a personal view but that won’t stop me wanting the girls to do well and have a great World Cup.”
Houghton, who captained England to three consecutive major tournament semi-finals in 2015, 2017 and 2019, says Wiegman spoke to her about need to play more club games, before Christmas, but now feels she has been getting that game-time recently, adding: “I feel as though I’ve proven myself over the past few months, against the best teams in the WSL, back to where I want to be and pushing for England. But England’s been difficult, I won’t lie. I love playing for England.
“Conversations before Christmas between me and the manager [Wiegman] were about me getting game-time and at the time I wasn’t, so there was no argument. [But for England’s latest squad selection] I knew I was playing well and I knew I was playing [regularly] in comparison to other players but unfortunately that call didn’t come.
“I feel as though when I’ve had this conversation with the manager, it’s always been negative. Over April, March, I was playing, I was playing well, I’d proven myself against the likes of Sam Kerr. I think, sometimes, no matter what you do, you’re not going to please someone.
“I’m realistic to the fact that I probably won’t go to the World Cup but as a player and as stubborn as I am, anything can happen so I just need to make sure I’m ready.”
Houghton was speaking while working as a pundit for the BBC’s coverage of the men’s Premier League on Sunday, and she added during the discussion with presenter Steve Crossman that she felt England’s form under Wiegman has been “pretty incredible”, but continued: “As a player, sometimes you just want some indication and honesty.
“But then I do kind of understand where she’s coming from. I think I just want closure on the situation; ‘Have I got a chance or is it not possible?’ But she obviously can’t provide closure because there’s a World Cup coming up and you have to have as many players available.
“But I do respect her, for the conversations we’ve had, and I can’t complain because England are winning and they are developing the squad, but for me personally I know I could give something to the squad.”