Steph Houghton of England England v Canada Women's International Friendlies football match, Academy Stadium, Manchester, UK - 05 Apr 2019 Photo: Lynne Cameron for The FA

England defender Houghton pleased to see forgotten Lioness George on the comeback trail

Manchester City and England defender Steph Houghton says that she is pleased to see Everton centre-back Gabby George regain her fitness following long-term injury.

The 24-year-old has been sidelined for a year after rupturing her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) but George has recently returned to Everton’s matchday squad.

George will be hoping to win her place back in the Everton side in the coming weeks and months while the player will also be keen to force herself back into international contention in the future after being capped just twice by the Lionesses to date at senior level.

Current England international Houghton has been speaking about George’s return to fitness. While Houghton is naturally pleased to see her fellow centre-back return to fitness and competitive football, she also believes that George can offer something different to the Lionesses’ defensive options in the future.

“It is great to see that Gabby is back fit and I know that she played her first 45 minutes for Everton’s development team the other day which is unbelievable” said Houghton when speaking to FAWSL Full-Time in an England press conference. “I know how hard she has worked and obviously with COVID it has probably altered her rehab a little bit.

“Whenever she has been part of this environment, she is a great girl first and foremost but she has got so much potential.

“The fact that she is left-footed is an advantage because we don’t have that many left-footers in the squad and that could provide us with balance.

“Ultimately, she will just be so happy to be back on the pitch. With her physical attributes and the way that she plays, I think she is able to provide us with something different and hopefully, over the next few months she is able to get back in that Everton team and get a run of games to give herself the best chance of being back in an England shirt.”

Houghton will be part of an England team who will play their first competitive fixture in almost a year tomorrow when they face Northern Ireland at St George’s Park. The game will also see interim coach Hege Riise take charge for the first time. With England having struggled for form since the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, Houghton says that the squad want to make a positive statement on the pitch against an improving Northern Irish side.

“Everybody is wanting to impress” said the defender. “It is a big year with the Olympics coming up and I think that everybody playing in the WSL and playing abroad are doing their best to make sure that their performances are getting noticed.

“In this training environment and for us as players, there has been so much talk about our form and performances and the only way that we can put that to bed is by performing well tomorrow and really showing what this team is about.

“For us, we hear these comments and read these articles and we know that it has not been a true reflection of what we have brought but ultimately, we want to put that right, we want to play the way that England play and we look forward to hopefully doing that tomorrow.”

England’s international friendly fixture against Northern Ireland is scheduled to kick-off at 12.30pm tomorrow afternoon. The game will be broadcast live on the BBC Red Button and on the BBC iPlayer.

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