TOMORROW lunchtime, more than 34,000 fans will pack into Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium to watch England take on Brazil in the first senior women’s football international to be staged in the North-East.

The fact that a women’s match is a complete sell-out underlines just how popular the sport has become in the last few years, and is testament to the excellence of an England side that boasted eight North-East players as it reached the semi-finals of this summer’s World Cup.

Sunderland-born skipper Steph Houghton and her team-mates should be extremely proud of the way they have helped their sport flourish.

Today’s attendance also confirms the North-East’s appetite for top-class women’s football, and while it is great to see the FA bringing such a high-profile friendly match to the region, it is a shame that no North-East venue will be staging matches when England hosts the next Women’s European Championships in 2021.

Similarly, it is regrettable that the region does not have a team in the Women’s Super League, the top division of the domestic system, although that will hopefully be put right soon with Durham Women currently topping the second-tier Championship.

The North-East was a hotbed of women’s football when the game was finding its feet, hence the number of local players in the national team. Days like today should help ensure it remains at the forefront of what is now one of the country’s most popular sports.