Neville hails 100-cap Houghton

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Katie Why­att

Eng­land Women man­ager Phil Neville has called cap­tain Steph Houghton a “spe­cial per­son” ahead of her 100th Eng­land cap to­day.

The Manch­ester City cap­tain, 30, was rested on Thurs­day against Aus­tria to al­low her to reach the land­mark on home soil, the Lionesses hav­ing sold out Rother­ham United’s New York Sta­dium for what Neville hopes will be “a cel­e­bra­tion of her in­ter­na­tional ca­reer” against Swe­den.

Houghton’s per­sonal cir­cum­stances, of course, are far from those in which she would have imag­ined be­com­ing the 11th woman to col­lect 100 caps.

She and her fam­ily are still reel­ing from the news that her hus­band Stephen Darby, the 30-year-old for­mer Liver­pool, Brad­ford and Bolton right­back, has mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease.

Neville said: “Steph’s a bril­liant player but an even bet­ter per­son. What she’s go­ing through is hor­rific but you’d never know. She gets on with it. She’s dealt with it in a class man­ner and she’s gone up so much in my es­ti­ma­tion. She is re­spected by the play­ers and I don’t think she re­alises just how much re­spect she’s got within foot­ball.

“That’s why I want Sun­day to be about Steph Houghton. I can see her get­ting to­wards 170 caps, like Fara [Wil­liams], be­cause she’s the ul­ti­mate pro­fes­sional. The foot­ball she’s played from the start of the sea­son is the best I’ve seen her play.”

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