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England captain dedicates 100th cap to seriously-ill footballer husband

‘This one’s for my family, my husband, who are there with you when there’s a lot of lows.’

ENGLAND CAPTAIN STEPH Houghton has dedicated her 100th cap for her country, won yesterday, to her husband, ex-Liverpool defender Stephen Darby, who was recently diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The former Bolton and Bradford City player was forced to retire aged 29 in September off the back of the heartbreaking diagnosis.

His wife spoke publicly for the first time since the news broke after winning her 100th England cap in their 2-0 friendly loss to Sweden at New York Stadium.

The 30-year-old Manchester City skipper became the 11th female England player to hit the milestone, and while they suffered defeat, it was a memorable occasion

Houghton was presented with a commemorative Three Lionesses shirt beforehand and was joined pitch-side by her parents, brother, grandmother and husband Darby.

“I don’t want to mention too much about my personal life, but this one’s for my family, my husband,” she said afterwards, as quoted by The Telegraph’s Katie Whyatt, “who are there with you when there’s a lot of lows that people don’t really see away from the pitch.

“They’re the people that keep you grounded and keep you focused on what you’re supposed to do, which, for me, is to be the best captain I can be.

“I’ve never, ever set my sights on getting 100 – it’s more my family. My dad’s been counting down the caps for every single home game and he’s been to every single one I’ve played in England. I’m not setting myself goals.

PFA Awards 2017 - Grosvenor House Hotel Houghton and Darby with David Beckham at the 2017 PFA Awards. Source: EMPICS Sport

“For me, my only focus is the World Cup coming up next year and playing well for Manchester City and this England team. That’s my only focus over the next six or seven months.”

The night before was an “emotional” and “special” one, she admitted, with video messages shared with her from family, friends and former team-mates who have hit the 100 club. A huge feat, marked accordingly with other lovely gestures.

England head coach Phil Neville praised the City stars’ humility and modesty afterwards, saying she was embarrassed by the hype, and added that he believes she can win up on 70 more caps.

England Women v Sweden Women - International Friendly - AESSEAL New York Stadium Signing autographs afterwards. Source: Tim Goode

“Steph’s not bothered, really, about her 100th cap. She wanted just to play the game. I think Steph’s overriding emotions will be, ‘Sod my 100th cap – I wanted to win the game of football.’

“Steph’s going to play on for another 50, 60, 70 caps. You always want to celebrate something as special as this with a victory, but it doesn’t take anything away from Steph’s achievement at all and the type of person she is.

“It means that she’s more worried about how the team are and how we can react to this.”

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Emma Duffy

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