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Park on idolising ‘incredible’ Houghton, WSL title race and England

Jess Park has revealed how she idolised Steph Houghton and says her “incredible” Manchester City captain has passed on precious guidance during a dramatic Women’s Super League title race.

Houghton, who recently announced her plans to retire at the end of the season, will hope to round off a stellar career with a fourth WSL title, with her City side three points ahead of Chelsea at the top of the WSL standings, albeit having played a game more than the champions.

Park was speaking at St George’s Park before the Lionesses begin their European Championship defence with a qualifier against Sweden at Wembley on Friday.

“I remember when I was young watching the Olympics and seeing her (Houghton) score her free-kicks. I idolised that,” she told Sky Sports News.

“Now I’ve been able to meet her and play with her and get to know Steph as a person, she is absolutely incredible.

“The stuff that she does on the pitch is obvious to everyone that it’s incredible, but away from the pitch and how she’s helped me and the advice she’s given me… she’s a top person.”

Since making her international debut against Japan back in November 2022, Park, who has gone on to be capped seven times by the Lionesses, has found support forthcoming from all her City team-mates.

“The girls are incredible and they make you feel comfortable as soon as you come into the environment off-pitch and on-pitch,” she said.

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Highlights of the WSL match between Manchester City and Manchester United

“I’ve got a lot of friends who are here [with England] from City. Me and Alex [Greenwood] are quite close at our club so she helps me get involved here as well as Hempo [Lauren Hemp] and Esme [Morgan].

“They try to include me as much as possible and that’s really important for them and it’s really nice for me, too. But all the [England] girls are genuinely lovely, so they all help with that.”

With a strong City contingent in the England squad, Park admits there is talk of the WSL title race in the Lionesses’ camp, adding: “At the start, there’s always a little bit of banter. All of [the Chelsea players] are jokesters, Niamh Charles definitely.”

Park has been in a strong vein of form for Manchester City after stepping up to replace the injured Jill Roord, who ruptured her ACL in January.

She has four goals and three assists so far this season and impressed in front of an onlooking Sarina Wiegman in the recent Manchester derby, bagging a first-half double at the Etihad.

England v Belgium - UEFA Women's Nations League - Group A1 - King Power Stadium
England's Jess Park during the UEFA Women's Nations League Group A1 match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. Picture date: Friday October 27, 2023.
Image: Jess Park in action for England

“It feels amazing at the moment. I’ve been very patient, I went out on loan, got some experience,” said Park. “Now, I’m finally getting an opportunity to show a bit about me.

“I’ve been working on [increasing my goal contributions] for a while, whether it’s been staying out after training and practising my finishing or speaking with team-mates on how I can assist them. That has really helped me to find them when I’ve been playing.”

Sky News
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