England and Manchester City Women captain Steph Houghton has won the PFA's Merit Award 2019.
Having passed the 100-cap milestone for England earlier this season and won every domestic honour in the game more than once with Arsenal and Manchester City, Steph Houghton now has a huge summer ahead of her with World Cup glory up for grabs.
An impeccable role model with strong leadership skills, a huge heart, versatility and a staggering work rate, the 30-year-old is an example to any aspiring young pro.
It is Houghton’s image that has adorned marketing campaigns for the women’s super league as well as spearheading the England lionesses, whose development into genuine competitors for this summer’s world cup in France has been remarkable.
Women’s football in England is unrecognisable from the game that Steph Houghton first encountered when making her first-team debut for Sunderland aged just 14 in 2002.
Her own part in that rapid metamorphosis should not be underestimated. Houghton was one of the first players to earn an FA central contract in 2009, which arguably marked the first step on England’s journey to becoming a world force.
Described by those who know her best as “talented, hard-working and genuine,” the 30-year-old has had to endure several serious injuries, which stymied her progress at crucial moments, not least suffering a broken leg two days before she was due to fly to the World Cup in China in 2007.
Houghton started out at her native Sunderland as a striker but has since been moulded into a midfielder, then her present position at centre-back, where she pulls the strings for Manchester City and England.
Since joining City almost four years ago she has won all three major domestic honours, having done the same with Arsenal in her three-year spell there between 2010 and 2013.
With City, she has also reached two Champions League semi-finals.
“She’s a motivator and an incredible professional,” says City manager Nick Cushing. “You can see the way she plays the game, she plays it 100 per cent. Without her we simply wouldn’t be where we are.”
Houghton received an MBE in 2016 and in the same year became a UEFA women’s football development ambassador.
She has truly been a trailblazer – and with a big summer approaching, her greatest achievements may be yet to come.