Manchester City defender and former England captain Steph Houghton admits 2022 has not gone her way but is hoping the new year will bring a change in fortunes on the field.
Houghton has struggled for game time since returning from an Achilles injury and was not selected for England’s successful Euros campaign.
“Yeah, it’s been frustrating,” Houghton told Sky Sports News after surprising local college students at a City in the Community event.
“It’s not been my best year in terms of injuries and a lot of what’s gone on behind the scenes but as a professional and an athlete, it’s about trying to improve as much as I can.
“When you’re not playing it’s the most frustrating time. But for me, it was always about proving my fitness, which I’ve certainly done since April, May.”
Houghton was named in England’s provisional squad before the Euros but was cut when the team was whittled down to 23 players.
Since then Houghton has started two WSL games for City with Alex Greenwood, Esme Morgan and new signing Laia Aleixandri getting more game time. The former Lionesses captain, however, remains optimistic going into 2023.
“I’ve had a full pre-season, I’m fit and available, I’ve not missed a session. Ultimately, I know I’m a good professional and I know I’ve been there for the girls.
“If I keep showing that attitude and keep up the hard work I put in behind the scenes then good things will come, hopefully, that’ll start soon.”
Houghton was one of a number of City players giving back this Christmas, surprising local students at a coaching session at the club’s training ground.
Man City’s ‘Time for Giving’ campaign has seen players from the men’s and women’s sides be part of the club’s pledge to provide 76,000 hours of free football in the community in 2023, and spend time with patients, nurses and doctors at local hospitals.
“The club’s raised more than £190,000 and we want to encourage people of all ages to keep playing,” says Houghton.
“It’s important we give back and for the club to give back to Manchester.”
Hemp: I never expected a year like this
Lauren Hemp, by contrast, has had a very different 2022.
The winger started every game during England’s triumphant Euros and was named PFA Young Player of the Year for a record fourth time. City’s players break up for the winter break on Wednesday, giving Hemp time to reflect on the best year of her career so far.
“It’s been incredible. To look back on the success we’ve had at the Euros and with City… if you’ve had asked me if I expected that then I’d have said ‘no”.
“It’s only a few months down the line when you can look back at what a massive achievement it was. It’s been huge for women’s football with record attendances ever since the Euros and long may that continue.”
As well as giving back to the community, Hemp is also aware of the effect the rise of the women’s game is having on society as a whole.
“We’ve got a platform to help get so many girls into football. The Euros inspired young boys, young girls to even put Hemp tops on. It’s great to see, long may that continue and it’s important we’re still inspiring post-Euros.
Hemp can now look forward to a long-awaited break after three years of almost non-stop football, a rest she will be enjoying with her family in Norfolk watching her favourite Christmas films.
But the game is never far from her mind, especially with the World Cup coming up in the summer.
“This is the start of the journey, not just the end. It’s not winning it and it’s done, this is the start of something and, hopefully, it’s something special.”
Lauren and Steph were speaking to Sky Sports as part of City in the Community’s ‘Time for Giving’ campaign. To find out more head to www.mancity.com/CITC
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