THE football world has paid tribute to Steph Houghton after the former Sunderland star - described as an "icon of the game" - announced her intention to retire at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old from County Durham, who won 121 caps for the Lionesses, hopes to see out her career by winning the 2023/24 Women’s Super League title with Manchester City.

Houghton started her illustrious playing career at Sunderland in 2002 before moving on to represent Leeds and Arsenal before moving to City 10 years ago.

She made her England debut in 2007 and last featured in 2021, missing out on the title-winning Euro 2022 squad after undergoing Achilles surgery.

She said on her official website: “There is no easy way to say it, but I am retiring from football at the end of the current WSL season.

“Taking the decision to retire, is such a difficult thing to do. Whilst age comes to every player, it makes it no easier having to say the words out loud. Football has been my life; my passion and I have loved the career I have had.

“I would like to thank every team-mate I have ever played with, I have continued to learn every day and appreciate the support each has given me and the friendships I have made along the way.

“To my managers, coaches and all the staff that I have worked with and under, I appreciate the time, effort and work you have dedicated to improving my game and the standards of women’s football.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to represent Sunderland, Leeds Utd, Arsenal and to have been on the incredible journey that I have been on, with Manchester City over the past 10 years.

“I will always be humbled to have made so many domestic appearances, to have captained my country and to have represented England and Team GB in so many international tournaments. I will always be very proud of everything that I have achieved in the game.

“I am excited for whatever comes next but, in the meantime, I remain focused on giving everything I have left for Manchester City, over the next two months.”


Houghton is gunning for a second WSL title with City, having also won the league twice with Arsenal.

City head coach Gareth Taylor said: “Steph is – without question – an icon of the game. Although her professional career on the pitch is now coming to an end, her legacy will be felt for so many years to come. She’s paved the way for so many to thrive in the future.

“Steph has lived and breathed football for such a long time, and she leaves it in the strongest place it has ever been – a true testament to her leadership, hard work, talent, and dedication.

“I feel incredibly privileged to have been able to work with her since 2020 and know her name will be written into the history books as a true footballing great.

“Steph will excel in whatever she puts her mind to, and on behalf of everyone here at Manchester City, I’d like to express our immense gratitude and wish Steph all the very best for the future.”

Sunderland Women wrote on X: "Made in Sunderland, the rest is history. Congratulations on an illustrious career and best of luck in your retirement."

The Lionesses posted: “We wish you all the best in your retirement, @stephhoughton2. From leading the #Lionesses to growing the women’s game – your impact will never be forgotten. A true icon.”

England head coach Sarina Wiegman said on the FA website: “Steph deserves all the praise she will rightly receive for her remarkable career. I know she has been inspiring so many young girls to follow in her footsteps.

“I wish her the very best with whatever comes next and look forward to being able to celebrate her achievements at one of our games later this year.”

The FA’s director of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell said: “Steph has played a huge part in the growth of the women’s game and her impact transcends not just football but across sport. She has been the epitome of a role model.

“There will be girls who have seen Steph play with talent, determination and integrity and gone home and said: ‘I want to be Steph Houghton’.”