Steph Houghton: Former England and Man City captain retiring to prioritise family

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Steoh Houghton played for Team GB at two Olympic Games during her career

Former England captain Steph Houghton said it was a “tough” decision to retire from football but felt she needed to prioritise her family.

Houghton, who ended her career this season as Manchester City’s record appearance holder and with 121 England caps, said she “absolutely loves the sport” but it was “the right time” to stop playing.

“It’s tough because you don’t want to retire or go away from something you love so much and that has given you so much happiness over a long period of time,” she said.

“Perspective was really key in terms of my life away from football and spending time with people, spending time with my husband.

“At times this season I haven’t really enjoyed it as much as I normally would. Once you start having those feelings you go home and are maybe not yourself.

“From a mental point of view, I couldn’t really go on the way that I was.”

‘It was time I put more energy into family’

Houghton began her career at Sunderland in 2002, had three-year spells at Leeds and Arsenal, and joined City in 2014.

She played 241 games for City and is their most decorated player, having won eight major trophies – four Continental Cups, three Women’s FA Cups and the FA Women’s Super League title in 2016.

Houghton also won two WSL titles with Arsenal in 2011 and 2012, also helping the Gunners to five cup victories.

She was awarded an MBE in 2016 for her achievements in women’s football but hopes to spend more time with her family now.

“Ultimately it’s the best thing for me and my family,” added Houghton.

“Obviously Stephen – everybody knows that’s been tough – so I need to be a little bit more unselfish with my time and try to create more memories with him.

“By retiring, it allows me to have that time. Family means everything to me. They have always been there throughout my career.”

Houghton had a hugely successful international career, playing at two World Cups and two European Championships, as well as two Olympic Games for Team GB.

But she struggled for game time this season, making only five league appearances as City missed out on a second Women’s Super League title by goal difference on the final day to Chelsea.

Houghton admits she was “maybe not getting enough reward” for the time she prioritised on football this year.

“It’s not always going to be good, it’s not always going to be bad, and having that bit of perspective has really helped,” Houghton told BBC Sport.

“That’s one of the reasons I have decided to retire – that mental strain, in terms of playing at the top level. You are always under pressure to perform.

“Sometimes that takes its toll and was probably part of my decision. When you get to a point where I was in my career – sitting on the bench, using a lot of energy to be the captain, to be the leader – and maybe not getting enough reward.

“Things are put in perspective quite quickly [with Stephen’s condition]. It was time I put more energy into my family and being a part of Stephen’s life a lot more.”

Houghton ‘assessing’ options for future

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Steph Houghton was given a guard of honour following City’s last home game of the season against Arsenal

Houghton will not be short of offers to work in the game and admits it would be nice to continue helping Manchester City in some capacity.

The former centre-back is currently working on her coaching badges but says that is “just an option” for the future.

“I haven’t got a burning desire to be on the pitch and coach. When I’ve spoken to players that have retired recently, a lot of the advice I got was to leave my options open and really find what I want to do,” said Houghton.

“I’d like to think that I can still use some of the [leadership] traits that I have in football. I’d like to be honest with people and really show my personality – my bubbly side.

“But also if I am working, I still want to have that winner’s mentality, I want to be the best at everything I do and that can go a long way no matter what job it is.”


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