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Houghton: We’re so proud to wear the shirt

SKIPPER: Steph Houghton is excited to lead the team out at Wembley

SKIPPER: Steph Houghton is excited to lead the team out at Wembley

Steph Houghton says she could not be more proud to be leading Man City Women out at Wembley on Saturday.

The Blues face Birmingham in their first FA Cup final, having won all other domestic trophies.

Having joined the Club at its relaunch, Houghton has witnessed first-hand the incredible journey her side has endured to become league champions, two-time Continental Tyres Cup winners and Champions League semi-finalists and she cannot wait to captain her side at the national stadium.

“We’re all excited,” she smiled. “The FA Cup final at Wembley is one we always wanted to be involved in.

“Of course, the job is not done yet but we’re excited and we’re ready to go.

“I’ve experienced playing at Wembley before. It’s the home of English football.

“The crowd will be fantastic and to be the captain of this Club and to lead the team out will be a proud moment.

“It will be special for every single player – to be able to walk out with the City badge on their chest.

“Hopefully, it will be a good day, we can put in a performance and a win to go with that. Ultimately, I can’t wait to lead the girls out.”

With many fans travelling down to Wembley, despite a busy day of fixtures with the first-team and Academy in action, Houghton hopes to reward their loyal support.

“That’s what we think about,” she added. “To perform for the fans and for ourselves.

“It’s a long journey down to Wembley and some have probably decided to support us instead of the men.

“It’s all about trying to get that trophy and showing how proud we are to wear the shirt.

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“Over the last few games, everyone has seen glimpses of what it means to play for this football club.

“Hopefully. This can be another historic moment in this team’s development.”

Reflecting on City’s start to the season, which has seen the Blues reach the last four of the Champions League and begin their league title defence strongly to accompany their engagement at Wembley, Houghton expressed her pride.

“We’ve had to perform very well over the past few weeks to get the outcomes we want at the end of the season.

“Playing league games in quick succession provides a real test but an exciting one because it gives everybody a chance to play for the shirt in the FA Cup final.

“We focus on one game at a time. Nothing comes easy. We can’t let our standards drop. We try to make sure we get as many points as we can ahead of the cup final.

“Our mentality is always the same: to win as many games we can and perform the way we have done. We have quality and intensity and most importantly, we enjoy our football. This team is at its best when we get the ball down, score goals and are hard to beat.

“This Club wants to win as many trophies as it can and the only way to do that is to keep winning.

“We’ve still got a lot more to give. We’re chuffed to bits to be in the FA Cup final and to have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League is unbelievable for our debut season.

“To have beaten Lyon at their place is a huge pat on the back. Not many teams to that to the current European champions and experience what we did.

“We have the potential to be even better physically, tactically and technically and we have to strive to be – not only the best in England but – the best in Europe.

“We want to take it to the next level, becoming the Club everyone looks at and thinks: we want to emulate Manchester City.

“We have to keep building and keep the squad as fit as we can.”

A stalwart at the heart of defence – and a leader both on and off the pitch – Houghton added she feels she is enjoying some of her best form.

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"I feel I’m in a really good place right now,” she continued. “My personal target at the start of the season was to continue to improve myself as a player.

“I want to be playing as many minutes as I can, enjoying my football and controlling what I can control.

“I enjoyed every minute of the Champions League. It tested me against the best players in Europe and I felt I did quite well against them.”

With City already having locked horns with Birmingham this season – playing out a 1-1 draw last week – Houghton warned of their opponents’ threats but insists Saturday’s clash will present a different challenge.

“It will be a totally different game,” she predicted. “Whenever we play Birmingham, it’s always a tough game.

“They defend very well and the new manager has come in and got them working for each other.

“They have some really good players that can win football games but as always, we’ll try and concentrate on ourselves.

“When it comes to the FA Cup final, it’s about who can handle the occasion.

“We have a lot of experienced players who have played in finals previously.

“I think it will be a great occasion but ultimately, it’s all about winning a football game.”

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