Steph Houghton has explained why she feels now is the right time to bring an end to her remarkable playing career.

The City captain has announced that she will be retiring from professional football at the end of the 2023/24 campaign. 

An undoubted icon in the women’s game, she will rightly go down as a legendary figure at the Joie Stadium. 

But, after over 20 years at the top of the game, Houghton says she’s ready to devote her energy to both spending time with her family and new challenges away from the pitch. 

Nonetheless, it’s a decision the defender certainly hasn’t taken lightly. 

“No [it’s not an easy decision] because I actually really love the game and that’s all I’ve known since the age of four or five is kicking a ball about,” she explained. 

“If you know who I am as a person, my whole life revolves around football. Especially being here in Manchester, I met my husband here and I’ve given absolutely everything I can. 

“But, from a mental point of view, for me I am looking forward to a new challenge and I’m a little tired now. It’s been a heavy few years. 

“I just feel as though [it’s the right time]. I’ve had a lot of discussions with my family, my agent and friends. 

“I just needed to come out and say it and I feel now is the right time. I feel as though I’m ready to learn something new, whatever that might be. I’m grateful for the journey I’ve been on. 

“At the same time, my body’s fine, but for me there are other things I want to be doing and spending more time with my family as well.” 

With City in the midst of a rapidly developing Barclays Women’s Super League title race, there’s still a chance that Houghton could draw the curtain on her incredible career with one final trophy. 

Gareth Taylor’s side are neck and neck with Chelsea at the summit, with only goal difference separating the sides with five matches left of the campaign. 


For Houghton, City’s current crop rank among some of the best squad’s she’s been a part of. 

She added: “That’s what probably makes me a little bit sad… because this group of girls are special. 

“I think we’ve worked so hard to form this squad, we’ve tried to add stability, and, for me, we have some great players that are dominating on a world stage, never mind the WSL. 

“We’ve got young players who can potentially go and do something special and be the best players in the world if they really wanted to be. 

“This group is focused and that’s probably my thing – we know what we have to do - but also as a team and the togetherness as a team, maybe apart from the 2016 group and 2019 – this group has something special. 

“For me, it’s been amazing to work with them and see the likes of Khiara [Keating] come through. I remember saying to her on the first day of pre-season: ‘you need to have a really good pre-season because you have the potential to be unbelievable if you wanted to be’. 

“We all know what Khiara’s like in terms of personality, but I don’t want her to lose that because that’s what makes her who she is. 

“We have people like Khiara, Alex [Greenwood] who’s been unbelievable for us the last three of four seasons. We’ve got the likes of Jill Roord who have come in and added so much more quality. 

“They’re not just my team-mates, they’re my mates as well. They are special and that will be perfect if we could do something special at the end of this season. 

“I’ve got all the hope, and they have all my support to be able to do something special.”