Steph Houghton, the former England Women’s captain, has been left out of Sarina Wiegman’s final 23-player roster for the Euro 2022 competition this summer, although Chelsea striker Fran Kirby has been included.
Defender Houghton has been struggling with an Achilles injury all season, having not featured since January, and will be absent for the first time in five major tournaments.
Kirby was sidelined for the second half of the Women’s Super League season due to exhaustion, but she was called back into Emma Hayes’ squad for the FA Cup final against Man City in May, despite not playing.
The Lionesses will instead be led by captain Leah Williamson and supported by vice-captains Millie Bright and Ellen White – the striker is England’s all-time leading goalscorer on 50 goals and will be making her third consecutive Euro appearance.
Houghton joins Lucy Staniforth – also returning from long-term injury – as well as Sandy MacIver, Niamh Charles and Katie Zelem on the list of players who have been left out of the final 23, but changes can be made up until June 26.
Forward Chloe Kelly has also made the cut, despite only recently recovering from an ACL injury, and is one of nine players embarking on their first major tournament.
Wiegman: Houghton isn’t ready to compete
Wiegman said: “It was a hard decision, but she’s just not ready to compete. We set a plan in place with her for her, and she did everything she could do, we supported her as well as possible.
“She’s in a very good place but just not ready to compete, I think. It’s a matter of time, and we don’t have that time.
“It was really hard. It’s hard for every player we had to disappoint, but of course for such a big player with such a big impact on the England game, she did everything – but other players do everything too. “Of course, she was very disappointed and I know she did everything to make it, so she wasn’t happy, but she took the arguments I gave her and then we left it for now.”
Wiegman plans to deliver a ‘summer to remember’
Head coach Wiegman added: “I am excited by what is possible for this group. We all know this is a huge opportunity and it is one we have to grab with both hands. The chance to represent the nation on such a big stage on home soil is one to relish. “Togetherness is a big part of what we are all about and from every player in the squad to my superb support team, and with the strong backing of everyone at The FA and our fans, we are committed to make it a summer to remember.”
In order to win a major tournament you can’t shirk the big decisions and in picking her final squad for Euro 2022 Sarina Wiegman has shown her ruthless side. Picking Steph Houghton would have been the safe pick, leaning on the old adage coaches love about “you can’t have too much experience” in a squad.
But Wiegman is going her own way, which is exactly why The FA hired her. She was brought in after leading Netherlands to glory at a home Euros in 2017, she’s being backed to do the same this summer in England. With hindsight, as soon as England named a new leadership group in April, Houghton’s inclusion in the squad became unlikely. Leah Williamson was named the new captain and has a different style of leadership to Houghton. Millie Bright and Ellen White were picked as the No.2 and 3 skippers, ushering in a new era after Houghton wore the armband for seven years.
Every coach and player I spoke to, including a few players in the England camp, set out the reasons why Steph Houghton should be in the squad. Her tournament experience, her exemplary defensive record, her set-piece ability and the fact she’s respected in the squad. Wiegman, however, is adamant – England don’t need the former captain if she isn’t fully match fit.
Check the latest Sports news section for latest updates.