North-Easterner Houghton expresses pride at captaining England

The Northern Echo: PRIDE OF HER NATION: Steph Houghton (pictured receiving the FA's Player of the Year award) captained England for the first time on Friday PRIDE OF HER NATION: Steph Houghton (pictured receiving the FA's Player of the Year award) captained England for the first time on Friday

STEPH HOUGHTON has spoken of her pride at captaining England for the first time during Friday's friendly draw with Norway.

Houghton, who hails from South Hetton, was handed the captain's armband as Mark Sampson took charge of his first game as the new head coach of the England Women's side.

Eniola Aluko gave England an early lead in La Manga with a deflected shot from inside the box, but Melissa Bjanesco equalised for Norway when she headed home from a corner with three minutes left.

Houghton, who moved to Manchester City from Arsenal this summer, is set to be a key part of the new England set-up following Hope Powell's departure, and is proud to have been appointed as skipper.

“I was really surprised, but really honoured and humbled to lead the team out,” said Houghton, who started her career with Sunderland. “It's something that you dream of as a kid, and now it has come true, but the most important thing was that the team played well.”

Sampson will name his permanent captain ahead of March's Cyprus Cup, with the key task for the year to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

Powell was dismissed after England failed to progress from the group stage at last year's European Championships, and Sampson has introduced some fresh ideas in an attempt to improve things.

County Durham midfielder Jordan Nobbs was selected for Friday's friendly after barely featuring in last year's Euros, with fellow North-Easterner Jill Scott making a second-half appearance from the substitutes' bench.

“Everything's been great,” said Houghton. “Everyone's worked hard on the training ground, everyone has taken his (Sampson) ideas on board and now it's all about progressing and learning as we go.

“We want to play a pressing game and press from the front. All the girls put that into place, and we managed to do it for 90 minutes. There are times when we've got to learn how to hold and keep our shape, but overall the girls are taking the ideas on board and trying to put them into practice.”

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