England Lionesses: Steph Houghton lauds "legend" Jill Scott

Steph Houghton

England will play out their first international fixture in almost a year this afternoon in a friendly against Northern Ireland at St. George's Park.

The global impact of Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on football as a whole, but the Lionesses are finally ready to hit the turf once again. As well as the excitement of representing their country again, the players are looking towards a huge milestone within camp.

Jill Scott is set to make her 150th senior appearance for England this afternoon and will poignantly take the captain's armband from Steph Houghton to mark the occasion.

Joking that she was "absolutely fuming" to be relinquishing her captaincy for the day, the skipper went on to pay homage to her long-time international and domestic teammate.

"For Jill, I couldn't think of anybody else to get the recognition that she does," Houghton said. "Everybody talks about what she brings off the pitch and the character that she is, but ultimately she's an unbelievable footballer.

Jill Scott

"I'm full of admiration for her and we're going to be so proud of her. She deserves every good comment and plaudit that she gets because I know how hard she works and what it means for her to play for England."

Scott has played alongside Houghton in both England and Manchester City colours. The midfielder, who is currently on loan with Everton, made her international debut in May 2006 against the Netherlands. A year later, she was called up to the squad for the 2007 World Cup, having played a huge part in growing the popularity of women's football.

"We sometimes throw the word 'legend' around quite a bit but to be the second person to get 150 caps is absolutely unbelievable. To play that many times doesn't come through luck, it comes through hard work, willingness to improve and learn, and putting in the effort in that no one sees."

She's a legend in my eyes.

Scott is behind only Fara Williams — who boasts 172 caps in England colours after also making her debut in 2006 — and will lead England out this afternoon in what promises to be a prominent moment in the country's history.

The Lionesses will look to shake off the rust and bag themselves a positive result against neighbouring rivals Northern Ireland. It will be Hege Riise's first match in charge since she stepped in as temporary manager following the departure of Phil Neville.

Houghton commented on the excitement around camp as they gear up to officially enter a new era: "Everybody was dying to get back into England colours,"  the defender beamed. "With the new manager coming in I think everyone was eager to impress."

Riise, who is Norway's most capped player, has taken over as England's interim manager before the arrival of Sarina Wiegman following the Olympic Games. 

Hege is very quiet and very reserved but when she speaks, you listen. 

With the 1993 World Cup winner in charge until after the summer, players are eager to get their names thrown into the mix for a potential Team GB spot. Equally, the transition from Neville's style of play to what Riise expects from the squad is another hot topic.

Houghton admitted that because of the style Riise adopted during her playing days, she is "all about an attacking style of play".

Similarly, the Norwegian admitted that while no drastic changes have been made to the playing style, she has been working on switching up England's approach to their press and attack.

"It's very competitive," Riise said of English football. "I feel like the session we had was very hard-working and there was a lot of excitement and energy.

"I'm so happy that we have this camp. It's been a wonderful few days."

The Lionesses will get their international friendly underway at 12.30pm this afternoon as they host Northern Ireland at St George's Park.

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