Steph Houghton has been named in England’s provisional squad for this summer’s home European Championship.
The Manchester City defender has been in a race to be fit for the tournament, which begins on July 6, after undergoing Achilles surgery in February.
Houghton, whose most recent appearance came for City on January 23, makes an initial 28-player group that is due to be cut down to a final 23 by England boss Sarina Wiegman in the second week of June.
Let the preparations begin 💪
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) May 17, 2022
Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs misses out after her season was ended earlier this month by a knee problem, further misfortune for a player who was ruled out of the 2019 World Cup by injury.
City winger Chloe Kelly is part of the 28, returning to the Lionesses set-up after her recent comeback from an ACL injury.
Chelsea’s Fran Kirby, absent from Wiegman’s previous squad due a fatigue-related issue, is back as well, while Jill Scott, who has been on loan at Aston Villa from City, is another included while working on her fitness.
There are also recalls for Manchester United midfielder Lucy Staniforth and Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver in a squad captained by Arsenal’s Leah Williamson, who was confirmed as skipper for the Euros – succeeding Houghton – last month.
Regarding Houghton, the team’s captain at the last three major tournaments, who has not played under the current manager due to her injury issues, Wiegman said in quotes on englandfootball.com: “We have only seen a little bit of her this year but what I have seen is really good.
“Of course, I knew of Steph before I came in as the head coach (in September). The experience she has, the levels she has shown before, what she has contributed to English football, and that was one of the reasons I wanted to give her a chance too.
“We have had really honest conversations around where she is right now and what we need from her when she comes in. We are taking it day-by-day, and we will see where she goes.
“She is working really hard trying to make the Euros and we need to make sure she is fit enough to continue building.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) May 17, 2022
“She also needs to perform because the team have done so well in her position so she needs to get to her level really quickly to be able to make the squad but I am positive and she is positive that she will be fit.”
On Nobbs, Wiegman said: “We have had very good conversations with Jordan and also with her club…and what came up most is that we are so sad for her that she got injured. The injury will take a little bit of time to recover so it is so hard and really disappointing for her.
“We had honest conversations and we said for her to start getting ready for the new season. It is just the timing of the injury is so unlucky because the timing became so tight. It is just too tight.”
Wiegman said Kelly, involved in City’s final seven games of the season, “still needs some rhythm but she has shown me enough to convince me and the technical staff to include her in the provisional squad.”
Kirby has not played a match since February but returned to Chelsea’s matchday squad as an unused substitute when they beat Arsenal in Sunday’s FA Cup final.
And Wiegman said: “Fran is still building up and we are taking it slowly with her because we do not want to take any risks with her. I’m just really happy for her that she feels better.”
Wiegman’s players are set to begin a series of get-togethers at St George’s Park on May 30 ahead of warm-up games against Belgium at Molineux on June 16, Holland at Elland Road eight days later and then Switzerland in Zurich on June 30.
The Euros then open with England playing Austria at Old Trafford on July 6, and they will also face Norway and Northern Ireland in their group.
Wiegman is aiming to claim back-to-back Euros titles having guided her native Holland to victory on home soil in the 2017 edition.
That included a last-four victory over England, who have been beaten semi-finalists in each of their last three major competitions, and were Euros runners-up in 2009 and 1984. They last hosted the Euros in 2005.
Wiegman said: “I hope we are going to make it an event that everyone will remember forever and that we, England, are going to have a great tournament.”