Steph Houghton hopes her footballing legacy is to have contributed to the immense growth of the women’s game.

The legendary defender will call time on her playing career at the end of the season – signalling the end of magical 22-year period at the top of the sport. 

Since her debut for Sunderland in 2002 to her final season at Manchester City in 2023/2024, she has witnessed significant changes to women’s football including professional contracts, improved training facilities and record-breaking attendances. 

And Houghton has credited her success in the game to an unwavering dedication to the cause.  


“The journey I’ve been on in terms of women’s football, I’ve been able to experience when we didn’t have any facilities, we didn’t have kit, we trained once a week,” she explained. 

“You would train until there was basically no light or whatever. I’ve been fortunate enough to see where the game’s gone.  

“My legacy [is] to know I’ve kind of left it in a better place and I’ve challenged and put up a fight as women, not just as footballers, but as women to be given that same opportunity to kind of have every opportunity that every male player gets.  

“If I know I’ve left this game in a better place, then for me, I know I’ve done half of my job.  

“As a person, I always think you can give some of yourself to somebody else and I think that’s one of my strengths – is to, no matter what situation I am personally, I think you can always add value to somebody else.  

“As a player just to know that no matter what, if you commit, you dedicate and do the extras you can do something special.  

“That’s kind of been my mantra in my career to just, no matter what, we go for it, and we go for it 100 %.” 

Houghton has lifted 16 honours across her illustrious career so far – including three top flight titles. 

The latest of these league triumphs came for City in 2016 as Nick Cushing’s side navigated the entire campaign unbeaten while winning 13 of our 16 assignments. 

What’s more, the Blues conceded only four goals across the 2016 WSL term, with just one from open play.  

Regardless of the medals won, Houghton revealed the impact 10 years at the Joie Stadium has had on her on and off the pitch. 

Houghton added: “I’d probably forgotten [some of my achievements] if I’m honest because I’ve been so forward thinking and always trying to hit the next target or contribute in some way.  

“I’m proud of all those achievements and that’s not just down to me. I know how much I give as a person, but I think a lot is down to my family and people I’ve had around me.  

“Those achievements here at City as well. It’s not just because of me leading the way, there have been so many people who I’ve been fortunate enough to spend all that time with.  

“It’s not just driven me to become a better player, but a better person. That’s what I love about the Club. I think every single day I meet someone new or see someone.  

“I don’t look at them for the job they do, I look at them as a person. If that’s the biggest takeaway from this Club is that we love people who have a good personality, brings something and can [help] better each other.  

“That’s certainly been the case over the last few years. I’ve not just been developing as a player, but as a person as well.”