Steph Houghton injury a setback, Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman admits

Aston Villa v Manchester City – Barclays FA Women’s Super League – Banks’s Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

England boss Sarina Wiegman admits not being able to name the injured Steph Houghton in her squad for this month’s Arnold Clark Cup is “really disappointing”.

Houghton, who has been the Lionesses’ captain since 2014, withdrew from Wiegman’s first England squad last September due to an Achilles problem.

The defender made a comeback last month with Manchester City, but has subsequently been absent because of a recurrence of the issue.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday as her 24-strong squad was announced, Wiegman said: “You’re always disappointed when you can’t bring in a player who you really want to bring in.

“With Steph it’s really disappointing because she has been out for a long time already. She came in in September, then she had to leave.

“When she came out of the winter break, she played well, but still now she needs a little more time to get fit again.

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“She was really disappointed of course but you need to do smart things, and if you need more time to get fit you have to take that time, otherwise you’ll be out for a longer period and that’s what we don’t want.

“She needs time and then hopefully she’ll recover good and in a short while and she can build up some playing minutes with her club first.”

Chelsea forward Beth England is another out with injury, but there is a trio of fit-again players back in the England fold.

Houghton’s City team-mates Lucy Bronze and Ellie Roebuck are included for the first time under Wiegman having recovered from knee and calf issues respectively, and Arsenal’s Leah Williamson is recalled after missing the last camp in November because of an ankle injury.

In Houghton’s absence, Wiegman had Williamson captaining the team before Millie Bright took over in November.

England v Austria – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – UEFA Qualifier – Group D – Stadium of Light

England manager Sarina Wiegman has to choose a new captain (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Asked if full-back Bronze was a potential captain this time around, Wiegman said: “I haven’t talked to the players yet. I first do this discussion with the players when they come in, and after that I’ll tell you.”

Since Wiegman took charge last September England have played six World Cup qualifiers, winning them all with 53 goals scored and none conceded, the most recent being a 20-0 thrashing of Latvia.

The inaugural Arnold Clark Cup tournament will see them host three fellow sides from the top 10 of FIFA’s world rankings – Olympic champions Canada at the Riverside Stadium on February 17, Spain at Carrow Road three days later and then Germany at Molineux another three days on from that.

Wiegman has emphasised the importance of the fixtures for the team to “really know where we stand” with less than six months to go to the Euros, which England also host.

The Dutchwoman added: “I think (it will be) the toughest (test). I also think this is what we need.

“We had a very good autumn with these three camps, and now we need these games to really know where we are.

“This is a tournament where we can really have a starting point for the preparations for the Euros – we’ve already done that, but now with these world-class opponents we’ll really know where we stand and from there, we will continue preparing for the Euros. It’s necessary to play these matches.”

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