While most Arsenal supporters are focused on the Robin van Persie saga, the pre-season, and new possible signings, let’s not forget the Arsenal Ladies. There are six of them making the club and nation proud with their performances during the Olympic Games. Britain has won all three of their matches in the group stage against New Zealand, Cameroon, and Brazil and faces a tough opponent in Canada on Fri. Aug. 3rd.
Left-back Stephanie Houghton was the hero in Britain’s win over Brazil at Wembley on July 31 with the only goal of the game, which came in the second minute. It was Houghton’s third goal in three matches, an excellent return for a defender, and she took it like the professional she is. She said the experience was unbelievable as it came in front of a record British crowd for a women's game of over 70,000.
It seems a little foreign to 24-year-old Houghton that she’s suddenly on a goal-scoring streak since she’d only scored one international goal ever before the tournament began. She admitted that there wasn’t really pressure on her and her teammates in the game against the Brazilians since Britain had already qualified for the quarterfinals, but the win was a great confidence booster. Her Arsenal teammates on the Olympic squad include Alex Scott, Kelly Smith, Kim Little, Rachel Yankey and Ellen White.
All six of them have shined when on the pitch and have helped the team finish on top of the group without giving up a goal against. They’ll have a couple of days of before facing Canada in Coventry on Friday. The British team is more or less the English women’s squad and they’re currently ranked ninth in the world right now by FIFA. Brazil is ranked fifth and the Canadians are also ranked ahead of them at seventh. This means the women will have their hands full again while attempting to reach the semi-final stage.
British manager Hope Powell said the team is gaining momentum, but the players and supporters shouldn’t get carried away since everything could come crashing down if they don’t play their best against the Canadians. She warned that it’s still too early to start thinking about a medal as there’s a lot of hard work to be done before they can reach that stage.
Houghton joked after the game that she could very well win the Golden Boot and she has a strong legion of followers on Twitter to kid around with. The name Stephhoughton2 is on her Arsenal kit and she’s bound to get more followers on her social media site after her individual and the team’s performances. She’s managed to score in each game with two of them being winners.
Houghton started out playing for Sunderland, but moved to Leeds after her hometown club was relegated back in 2007. She also debuted for the national team that year, but unfortunately broke her leg a couple of days before the team flew out to China to take part in the World Cup. She also suffered more bad luck in the form of a serious injury in 2009 when she tore ligaments and missed the European Championships.
Powell said Houghton worked as hard as she possibly could to get back into shape and rejoin the squad, where she’s now one of its best players. Powell said she admires Houghton’s versatility, dependability, and excellent attitude. The manager claimed she can play anywhere in the back four and midfield if needed. Oddly enough, the left-back has scored all of her Olympic goals with her right foot so far.
Houghton has close to 30 caps for her country now after progressing all the way through the women’s system at every age level. The young lady lists David Beckham, Michael Essien, Darren Fletcher, and Steven Gerrard as some of her favourite players and also has a sports science degree which she earned at Loughborough University. She’s impressed everybody on the British squad including her Arsenal teammate Kelly Smith. In fact the 33-year-old Smith could have made the score 2-0 against Brazil in the second half, but had her penalty kick saved by the diving keeper.
Smith, one of the best female strikers in the world with 45 goals in 114 games for her country and 73 in 66 matches for Arsenal between 2005 and 2009, has also had to battle back to earn a spot on the Olympic squad. Smith had battled against depression and alcoholism after suffering serious leg injuries while playing in America between 1999 and 2003. She was thousands of miles away from her family and home and depression set in. She suddenly found herself drinking vodka to numb out the mental and physical pain after returning home from physio appointments.
Smith spent 28 days in the Priory for treatment in 2004 and then former Gunner Tony Adams helped her out by placing her in his Sporting Chance Clinic. She made her way back to the Arsenal Ladies squad in 2005 and said she’s been fine ever since. She said if she suffers injuries now she can deal with them a lot better since she’s a mentally stronger than before. Smith went back to America in 2009 and played with the Boston Breakers until last season. She’s now back with Arsenal for her third stint at the club and is hoping this is the Arsenal Ladies most successful era yet.