By Tony Leighton
England and Great Britain women's football star Steph Houghton has congratulated the school teams representing Derby County and Gillingham for reaching the npower Football League Girls Cup Final at Wembley.
Rainham School for Girls will be stepping out for the Gills and Woodlands School from Allestree for the Rams when the Final of the Under-13, six-a-side nationwide competition is held at the national stadium ahead of The Football League's Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final on Sunday 7th April.
Arsenal defender Houghton, who lit up last year's Olympic Games with three goals in four matches - including a Wembley winner against Brazil - has been involved in an ambassadorial role during the Girls Cup competition.
And after travelling around the country visiting schools to meet the teams, to run coaching sessions and hold question-and-answer forums with the players, the 24-year-old former Sunderland and Leeds United player is mightily impressed.
"The standard of the players was very high wherever I went," Houghton told football-league.co.uk. "They were also very enthusiastic and really responsive when I was coaching them, and the Q&A sessions were great fun.
"I think that this npower Football League competition for girls is a great idea and for them to have the chance to play at Wembley is fantastic. I was lucky enough to play there for Great Britain and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
"I know the girls from Derby and Gillingham will love their day at Wembley. I visited both schools during my trips around the country and I'd like to not only congratulate them on reaching the Final but also to wish them all the very best for a great day at Wembley - I'm sure it will be an occasion they'll never forget."
The teams from Rainham and Allestree will contest the final having come through a competition that was contested by a total of 703 schools - and with 5,624 pupils involved - from the early rounds starting in November last year.
Clare McDougall, Head of Community and Education for npower, said: "The strength of the competition this year has been so high and we're proud to sponsor this tournament that champions girls' football at grass roots level."