ENGLAND captain Steph Houghton enjoyed an emotional return to her native North-East as she received the Personality of the Year award at the North-East Football Writers’ Association’s Awards dinner, held at Ramside Hall.

The prestigious award, which is awarded in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, recognises somebody who has used their position in football to benefit the wider community.

Houghton, who was raised in South Hetton and started her football career with Sunderland Ladies, was recognised for her crucial role in the growth of women’s football in this country as well as her charity work.

The 31-year-old raced across to Durham after playing in Manchester City’s 3-3 draw with Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, and was clearly deeply honoured to become the first female recipient of the Personality of the Year award.

“This award means everything to me and I’m very proud,” said Houghton, who will jet off to the United States at the start of next week to represent England as they attempt to retain the She Believes Cup. “I like to think that I take being a role model for young girls and boys to start playing football seriously. And to show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard.

“You can control what you can control, which is your performance off the pitch and being a good person. And I’d like to think that’s what my career has shown over the past few years.”

Houghton’s family and partner, Stephen Darby, were in the room to see her pick up the trophy, and Alan Shearer and Steve Harper, both patrons of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and previous recipients of the award, were on hand to offer their congratulations.

As well as Swiss centre-half Fabian Schar receiving the Men’s Player of the Year award, there was a further cause for celebration for Newcastle United as Geordie midfielder Sean Longstaff was crowned Young Player of the Year.

Durham Women defender Kathryn Hill won the Women’s Player of the Year award, while Sunderland legend Kevin Ball was a popular winner of the John Fotheringham award for outstanding services to North-East football.