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Manchester City captain Houghton excited at prospect of record Wembley crowd

Manchester City captain Steph Houghton has expressed her excitement at the possibility of playing in front of a record crowd at Saturday’s Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley.

The attendance for the showpiece has grown each year since first being held at the stadium in 2015, and it is hoped last year’s figure of 45,423 will be bettered when City face West Ham this weekend.

It is understood more than 50,000 tickets have been issued, including both sales and those distributed.

England Women v Australia Women – Women’s International Friendly – Craven Cottage

Houghton is England Women captain (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Houghton said on Thursday: “To be able to be playing in FA Cup finals at Wembley is obviously a dream come true.

“For women’s football in this country it’s important we do play in the best stadiums and for me Wembley is the best in this country.

“So to hear that potentially it is going to be a record-breaking crowd come Saturday, as players you want to be playing in those kind of environments, in front of those fans, and hopefully we can put on a pretty good final.”

On March 17 there was an attendance of 60,739 at the Wanda Metropolitano for the women’s match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, and 39,000 were present at the Allianz Stadium when Juventus Women took on Fiorentina a week later.

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Houghton said: “I think over the last few years we’re all sitting here thinking ‘how big can this game get and how big can women’s football in England get?’ I think there has been so much progression.

“Places in Europe have been getting unbelievable crowds. I think for us here we want to sustain the crowds, and when it does get to the big finals, to be able to get potentially 50,000, I think it just shows how much women’s football interest there is here.”

According to the Football Association, the record attendance for a women’s game in English football is the 53,000 that saw Dick Kerr’s Ladies beat St Helen’s Ladies 4-0 at Goodison Park in 1920. A crowd of 70,584 watched Great Britain’s women defeat Brazil 1-0 at Wembley during the 2012 Olympics, with Houghton scoring the winner.

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The 31-year-old defender, who captains England, added: “I think there have been so many watershed moments in the last few years. I think the 2012 Olympics, playing at Wembley (in front of) 70,000 people, that was definitely the turning point.

“Success also brings interest in terms of if the England team do well in the World Cup, that generates crowds.

“And the next three years are so exciting for women’s football in this country – we’ve got the World Cup coming up (this summer), the Olympics potentially next year and a home Euros in 2021. We need to continue being the best we can be in this country.”

Saturday’s contest kicks off at 5.30pm. West Ham’s men host Southampton at 3pm and the Hammers had wanted that game brought forward to a 12.30pm start to give fans the chance to travel to Wembley.

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They announced last week the Premier League had decided the change would not be possible due to the potential inconvenience caused to supporters who had already planned journeys and purchased tickets.

When asked about that, Houghton said: “Obviously it would have been great if the game could have been potentially moved earlier.

“That’s to do with the FA and the Premier League, and it was probably a little bit short notice when we’d finished our semi-finals.”

Meanwhile, City boss Nick Cushing has emphasised the importance of the club holding on to top-scorer and FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year Nikita Parris after she was linked with Lyon and Bayern Munich.

“It is imperative that we keep our best players here,” Cushing said.

“My job is to show progress with this team and for us that is on and off the pitch. Players like Nikita Parris add to that.”