Steph Houghton has said she has “achieved all the targets so far” in proving her fitness for England manager Sarina Wiegman and is confident she can get back to her best ahead of the Euros.
“I support myself, I support my fitness, I support the work I’ve done that no one has seen, and I’m getting better every day,” the 34-year-old said. “I appreciate being back on the pitch. I’m confident that I can get back to my best level.
The former Lionesses captain is training with Wiegman’s side for just the second time after suffering an Achilles tendon injury in September. The Manchester City centre-back returned to action in January but played a few games before aggravating the injury.
“Even though I only played five games, I think I played well,” she said. “My physical condition has never been an issue, from a physical point of view it’s more about my actual injury. It’s not necessarily about the number of games I’ve played, but the experiences that I have experienced.
“I watched a lot of football, I watched all the girls games, I watched all the England games, so I learned from the side. Now I’m just trying to put things in perspective. I feel like in my head I’m there or close to it, it’s just allowing my body to do what it needs to do and that’s keep working hard over the next few weeks .
The battle to be back on the pitch with the national team was tough, she said. “With the setbacks I’ve had and a somewhat disappointing season from a personal point of view, I don’t need people to tell me that [it’s been disappointing]. My goal was always to try to get back into the team. I’m not there yet but I had the chance to do it and prove my fitness.
Houghton has completed another full training session at St George’s Park and says the gap between her and the rest of the squad isn’t huge. “I feel like I’m holding up in training. There are a lot of players managed in terms of physical load because we don’t want to peak too soon. It’s just a matter of following medical advice and accumulating my sessions little by little. I haven’t missed a session yet, which is a good thing. It’s about sticking to the plan, following it day by day and step by step. When you’ve been out for so long, it’s about being back on the pitch and having the ball at my feet.
Wiegman will join the squad next week ahead of the team’s pre-tournament friendly against Belgium at Molineux on June 16 after suffering a family bereavement. “We want to send our love to him and his family,” Houghton said. “It’s difficult and family always comes before football.”
The manager’s absence meant the announcement of the 23-man home Euro squad was pushed back to next week, giving Houghton and the rest of the 28-man provisional roster extra sessions to make their evidence. “It’s important that I don’t rush too much,” Houghton said. “With the team announcement pushed back, it gives me more opportunities and more training sessions to impress.”