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Our interview with England star Steph Houghton

Special thanks to The FA and She Kicks for assisting us.

The Sweden-bound Arsenal and England midfielder-defender spoke to Zoe Vicarage on behalf of Bluefin Sport…

Congratulations on being selected for the England squad for Euro 2013 in Sweden, you missed the last European competition and this is set to be your second major tournament for England. How excited are you for it?

SH: Really excited. As a footballer you always want to be playing in international tournaments and this one is no different. It’s obviously been well stated that I’ve missed a few tournaments through injury but I’m really excited to get over to Sweden and to start playing.

You mentioned that you are looking forward to being in Sweden, are you expecting a lot of friends and family to be there?

SH: I think my dad and grandma are looking to come over but it is hard because they will be working. I’m sure my dad will be looking to be there for the second game and if we make it I’m sure he’ll be over for the quarter-finals.

How important has their support to you been over the years?

SH: It’s been crucial and it makes them coming over to Sweden a little bit more special.

The Olympics last year helped women’s football to stand out, how much do you think that high profile coverage has helped?

SH: It’s not just the sport, a number of the girls have gained a lot of support too. It has helped, attendances for league games and hopefully the game against Japan will show how many people are interested in their national side. The BBC showing our games in Sweden will continue to make it popular and hopefully we’ll get as high viewing figures as possible. I think, as a football fan, you always want to be watching football and having the BBC’s support of our games allows our families, who aren’t travelling over to Sweden, and the fans back home, a chance to watch us.

England have gone unbeaten in the qualifiers , triumphed in the Cyprus Cup and have a very experienced squad heading over to Sweden this year. You have a tough group but what are your hopes for the competition?

SH: I think a decent qualifying campaign and the Cyprus Cup were very important for us to gain that winning mentality, every player has got a little bit more experience. I think we have to take that experience into the Euro’s. As a squad we’ve always said that we’d take one game at a time and see how far we go. The squad that Hope Powell has picked is very talented and experienced one, with a lot of young players coming through. We’ve got to be confident in our ability and take one game at a time. Fingers crossed we can go far.

Who else in the competition do you see as favourites?

SH: You would have to look at Sweden being host nation, the support they will get over there will be unreal. And, I think probably Germany as well. The fact that Wolfsburg won the Champions League shows the strength in depth in their league and they’ve got a lot of experience of winning tournaments in the last few years or so. In my opinion those are the two teams we have to look out for.

Are there any teams or players you would want to avoid?

SH: I think we just have to concentrate on our first game against Spain who are full of technical players. Not to get ahead of ourselves and concentrate on picking up as many wins as possible.

You showed last year that you are a very versatile player, you’ve played in midfield, defence and you’ve shown you can go forward and score goals too. Do you have a particular position you prefer playing?

SH: To be honest, I always just want to play football whatever position I’m in. Over the last year I’ve been playing regularly at left-back and I feel as though I can nail down that position. I think I have grown into that position a lot and if that means going forward and helping the attackers; that is my job. I love the game; whatever position I’m playing in, I will do the best for the team and the manager.

You made your first appearance for England back in 2007 against Russia. In that time have you seen the quality of international football improve over that time?

SH: Of course. 2007 seems like a long time ago but I think every nation has improved. Look at ourselves and the amount of improvement we have made. We made the Euro Final in 2009, competed in the World Cup and did well in the Olympics. These tournaments have helped the sport as a whole get better. Every nation has improved, everybody wants to win and that has helped raised the standard of women’s football.

Do you think that St George’s Park has capitalised on that development?

SH: St George’s Park has got everything you would want as a footballer: the best pitches, the best physio treatment, recovery strategies and this is what you need as a footballer to prepare yourself for big games. We all enjoy coming up to St George’s Park and it kind of feels a bit like home. Everyone is getting used to it but we’re doing the best we can in the preparation we have, for the games coming up.

So you are definitely a squad that is completely together with each other?

SH: We’re a squad that wants all the same things and when you spend that amount of time together you work hard on the pitch and off the pitch - we like to have as much fun as everybody else.

The FA WSL is expanding next year, what do you see as the next thing that will take women’s football in England to the next level?

SH: The standard of the game in this country has got better with the introduction of the FA WSL. Personally, I would love in a few year’s time - it won’t happen overnight - to see the game go fully professional. To class yourself as a fully professional footballer, for your team and country. I think that is something that The FA is looking to do in the future and it’s just about taking small steps that benefit the game. That’s the best way I’d like to see the game go.

You started back in Sunderland in 2002 and you’ve been enjoying huge success at Arsenal. Take me through the FA Cup win earlier this year: what did that mean to you?

SH: The FA Cup win was just an amazing day, we had a lot of pressure on us as people we’re saying we weren’t the same old Arsenal, we’d lost it and didn’t have any winners. It made the girls more determined and we thrive on the pressure; we’re used to playing in big games and the FA Cup final was no different. To get the start we did and to eventually win 3-0, was brilliant. To lift the trophy showed what football was all about, the winning mentality we have as individuals and as a club.

Was lifting the FA Cup one of your dreams that drove you on to succeed and who inspired you to play football?

SH: Yes of course, I’m a player driven by the hunger for success and I’ve always wanted to prove myself as a player but winning trophies is the main thing. The people that support us, obviously my family have been a huge influence. When you’re younger you don’t realise how much they do for you: dropping you off and waiting in the cold for you while trying to learn your trade. As an individual I’ve always wanted success and that’s what drives me on to win as much as possible and prove myself as a player for both club and country.

As a role model for youngsters what is a top tip that you would give to girls wanting to make it in women’s football?

SH: I think it would be to work as hard as they can in training and education. There might not be success straightaway but just to work hard. The key is to enjoy football, really.

Outside the world of football what do you get up to in your spare time?

SH: I’m just a normal girly-girl really, I find myself on days off going out shopping and buying lots of clothes. I like to spend time with my family but with living in London it makes it hard to see them, whenever I get the chance I always try and see them.

Good luck Steph and hope you really enjoy being part of this years Euro campaign. We wish you and all the team a successful tournament.
The Women’s Euro’s starts on 10 July and England's first game is on Friday 12 July against Spain. Catch all the live action on the BBC.

Special thanks to The FA and She Kicks for their support with our interview.