Houghton loses fitness battle to make England squad for Euro 2022

The former captain misses out on home tournament but Kirby, Scott, and Kelly are named in the 23-player squad, writes Rachel Roberts.

Image: @Lionesses

Sarina Wiegman insists Steph Houghton was “just not ready to compete” after leaving the former England captain out of England’s 23-strong squad for next month’s Euros.

The Manchester City defender, who has 121 caps, made only five appearances in the Women’s Super League during an injury-hit season. Leah Williamson was handed the armband after the 34-year-old picked up an Achilles problem in February, and despite postponing a holiday to train, Houghton’s lost her battle to be fit in time for the home tournament.

Wiegman said: “It was a hard decision. She is in a very good place but just not ready to compete. It was just a matter of time, and we just don’t have that time.

“It’s really hard for every player that we have to disappoint. Of course, she’s such a big player who has such an impact on the England game, and she did everything, but as I said, other players do everything too.

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“She needs rhythm, and you need playing time. Normally you build up and you have two, three games to build that up in minutes but every person is different.”

Everton keeper Sandy MacIver also misses out, along with Chelsea full-back Niamh Charles and Manchester United duo Katie Zelem and Lucy Staniforth.

But Fran Kirby and Chloe Kelly both made the cut despite prolonged absences due to a fatigue-related illness and injury respectively. On Chelsea star Kirby, Wiegman said: “She’s doing well, she has been in training [with us] for a while, and she’s ready to compete tomorrow.”

While City forward Kelly, who returned from an ACL injury in April, is “growing and getting used to the style of play, which is not really a lot different than it is at Man City. She’s excited, we’re excited, and we have three friendly games and hopefully we can see a little more.”

There may be no room for sentiment in the squad, but there is always value in a mix of experience and fresh blood. There are nine players for whom this will be their first major tournament — Ellie Roebuck, Hannah Hampton, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Alessia Russo, Jess Carter, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone, and Bethany England.

But on the question of the blend in the squad, Wiegman believes there is enough experience there. She said: “I think the balance is good. You need some experienced players that can share but it’s also about quality. I think we picked a team with lots of quality, with experience. If we need to change things in the game, during the game, I think we have opportunities to do so.”

Speaking of experience, there is plenty to be found in Jill Scott. This summer’s championships will be the 10th major tournament for the ex-City stalwart, who has 156 caps and will no doubt be expected to take on a leadership role after recovering from injury.

The Lionesses have three fixtures left to prepare for the challenge ahead, starting with Belgium at Molineux Stadium tomorrow, followed by the Netherlands in Leeds next Friday and away in Switzerland on June 30. Wiegman feels the squad is “in a pretty good place” preparation-wise, and with England’s current form – unbeaten since she took over – the stage is set for a special championships next month.

England will play their opening match of the Euros against Austria on July 6.

England’s Euros squad

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Man Utd), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Man City).

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Man City), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Man City), Demi Stokes (Man City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jill Scott (unattached), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Man Utd), Keira Walsh (Man City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

Forwards: Beth England (Chelsea), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Man Utd), Ellen White (Man City).

Follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts

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