Houghton revels in the strength of the Lionesses squad

Wednesday 31 Aug 2016
Steph Houghton relaxes with Lucy Bronze during a break in training

Steph Houghton believes the competition for places in the England squad is “as strong as it has ever been”.

The Lionesses captain helped steer her country to next summer’s Euro finals in Netherlands.

Mark Sampson’s side have two qualifiers remaining, against Estonia in Nottingham on Thursday 15 September and Belgium away five days later.

England v Estonia

UEFA Women's Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
7.05pm BST, Thursday 15 September 2016
Meadow Lane, Notts County
Tickets priced £7.50 adults, £3.50 children

The last time England faced Estonia, an 8-0 win last September, debutants Izzy Christiansen and Dan Carter both got on the scoresheet – the latter with a hat-trick.

And Houghton says the emergence of a number of younger players has led to a welcome uncertainty around selection.

“I think the competition for places is as strong as it’s ever been,” the 28-year-old told talkSPORT.

“It’s credit to the young players that are performing week in, week out in the WSL.

“Now that there is so much competition for places I don’t think anyone can predict the squad that Mark is going to pick.

“For us as players it’s all about trying to nail down a spot in the squad and hopefully you’ll get your name on the teamsheet.

“The likes of Izzy and Dan Carter have been fantastic this season.”

Houghton and six of her Manchester City club mates will be hoping to have caught Sampson’s eye after bringing the Academy Stadium outfit to the cusp of a maiden FA WSL 1 title.

The Lionesses endured fitness testing earlier this month

Nick Cushing’s side are 10 points clear of Chelsea with just three matches remaining – although the Blues do have two games in hand.

But Houghton and Co. are ready to put their title challenge to one side as they aim to help England top Group 7.

She said: “If you ask any of the girls they want to go and represent their country. They want to keep as fit as they can be for both City and England.

“We want to play every single game. We’re quite lucky at City that we’ve got seven England internationals that play together every single day.”

Houghton added: “The first target was to qualify and we’ve done that quite comfortably.

“But we’ve got two big games left.”

Tickets for the Estonia match are on sale now, priced £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children.

A family ticket is available, via phone booking only, priced £15 (two adults and two children) while group booking discounts apply.

Tickets can be bought via TheFA.com/Tickets or by calling 0115 955 7210.

By Glenn Lavery