Manchester City captain Steph Houghton says SSE Women’s FA Cup Final opponents West Ham remind her of when she first started at the club.
The Hammers have reached the final at the end of their first season as an FA WSL club and will look to stop City claiming their second title in three years at Wembley.
After a difficult start – which included a 7-1 defeat to City – their progress in the second half of the campaign has been remarkable.
“West Ham are a team that have improved, I’d compare it to when we first started as a City team,” Houghton said.
“You get used to the league, the players are getting used to playing every so often, you try to grow as a team and West Ham have certainly done that.
“To get to a final is an unbelievable achievement. We really respect them because of the ideas they have, the players they have, the manager they have.
“It’s a final and anything can happen. I’ve lost a final and you don’t want that feeling.”
Houghton has played in, scored in, won and lost finals in her career, and says there is nothing in football that can rival the feeling of lifting the FA Cup at Wembley.
“It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s the best day in your football career,” she said.
“To win an FA Cup, it’s such an amazing trophy, really significant in terms of male and female football and it’s even better that you can play in an unbelievable stadium at Wembley.
“To play in front of 45, 50,000 fans, it’s going to be a great occasion.”
Houghton scored inside two minutes of the 2013 final, heading in Rachel Yankey’s cross to set Arsenal on their way to a 3-0 win over Bristol Academy.
“God, I never really score that much anyway but that one was a bit special,” she said.
“It was my first final as captain of Arsenal. We had come under a bit of stick from a lot of fans, people were writing us off so to go and score in the first two minutes of the final really settled the nerves and you could tell by the celebrations it meant a lot to the girls.”
With an attendance below 5,000 at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, the 2013 final’s crowd was the lowest since 2000 – but since then the figure has been going up and up, with more than 45,000 at Wembley to see Chelsea beat Arsenal last season.
“For us experienced players, you see the transition in terms of the interest in the game,” Houghton said.
“Going back to 2011 and winning that first one with Arsenal and comparing it to the one I won with Man City against Birmingham, women’s football has come on loads in the last few years.
“I do think it helps when it’s at Wembley because it’s such a significant stadium, people want to go and watch a game no matter who’s there.
“For us to have the opportunity to play in front of those big crowds is going to be unbelievable not just for the players, but for the fans themselves.”
As the energy behind women’s football, SSE’s ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE’s sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk