England captain Steph Houghton’s husband will cheer her on in Nice as the Lionesses start their World Cup campaign after he was forced to quit his own football career following his devastating motor neurone disease diagnosis
- After a ‘really tough’ personal year Steph Houghton prepares for World Cup
- Husband Stephen Darby will journey to France despite devastating diagnosis
- Darby was forced to give up his own football career as a right back for Bolton following diagnosis of motor neurone disease in September
England’s world captain, Steph Houghton, will have the support of her husband Stephen Darby as the world cup begins today in Nice.
The captain’s husband has said he will make the journey to France despite having received the devastating diagnosis of motor neurone disease just months after their wedding last June.
Houghton, 30, had previously said she would ‘step away’ from her duties as England’s captain at the World Cup if her husband needed her.
England international Steph Houghton, 30, pictured here on her wedding day to former footballer Stephen Darby, left, said she would give up her World Cup dream to care for him if he needed, after he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease
She said: ‘It would all depend on how Stephen is. He’s my priority. If anything were to change in the near future, my job is to be the best wife that I can be and to look after him.’
Darby was forced to give up his own football career as a right back for Bolton in September following the diagnosis at the age of 29.
However Houghton says her husband, a Liverpool youth player who played for Bradford and Bolton, would not want her to miss the World Cup.
Steph Houghton of England is welcomed to the team hotel by local children England Women’s Football team in Nice, France, June 4
She said: ‘He wants me to go. He says, “Get out of the house!”
‘He’s been an unbelievable person in the way he has dealt with it. He has been everything I knew he would be.
‘He really motivates me to be the best person I can be and the ultimate thing for me is to make him proud.’
Adding: ‘It’s obviously been a really, really tough year on a personal level, but I can be honest and say i’m sitting here in England colours and i’m really focused on England.
England Captain Steph Houghton married Stephen Darby in June last year after getting engaged in September 2017
‘Of course Stephen’s my number one priority and he always will be.’
As the ‘Lionesses’ play the first match of England’s fifth Woman’s World Cup against Scotland on Sunday in Nice, Darby, who is said by Houghton to be ‘as good as ever’, will be on the sidelines cheering his wife on.
Having represented her country more than 100 times, and captaining Manchester City, Houghton has become an icon to a new generation of women looking to break into the the world of women’s football.
England manager Phil Neville praised Houghton for her perseverance in the face of adversity calling her ‘a brilliant player but an even better person’.
He said: ‘What she’s going through is horrific but you’d never know.’
In April he announced Houghton would lead the team to the World Cup despite her personal challenges.
Steph Houghton is seen left playing for England last year and Stephen Darby is pictured with Liverpool in 2008
He said: ‘I think she has become an even better leader if anything, even more determined.
‘Sometimes, you need a distraction as a release from the anguish and the pain.’
The manager has become known for his empathetic attitudes towards the personal lives of his players, allowing them much needed time off the pitch with their families during down time.
Pressure is mounting for England, ranked third in the world, who are among the favourites to lift the trophy at this year’s world cup.
After playing Scotland on Sunday in Nice the team will fly to La Havre in Normandy to play Argentina, then back to Nice to play Japan in their last group game.
FA and Fifa say they expect a near sell-out at the Allainz Riviera Stadium in Nice is this Sunday, which has a capacity of 35,000, as the two UK teams battle for victory.
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