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Football People are talking about the women's game but for the wrong reasons

Football is still coming to grips with the sacking of Mark Samspon as England manager last week.

While many, including myself, have argued that the women’s game deserved more mainstream exposure, it is a shame that it came like this.

While many have rightfully questioned how Sampson kept his job after the racism and bullying allegations from Eni Aluko, Drew Spence, Lianne Sanderson and others, the most important question came from Women in Football, which how was he given the job in the first place?

The Football Association can pass blame to the previous regime for hiring Sampson without doing the necessary background checks. They can also point the finger at the change in regime which saw the 2014 safeguarding report left on a desk for someone to read, someone who hadn’t been hired yet.

But once the new group were in charge, once they started their jobs, they should have been on the ball. When they gave Sampson a contract extension last year, someone at the FA should have pointed to troubling report left lying in the middle of the room, though it was clearly ignored until they were tipped off again two weeks ago.

But even when they did read it, they waited a week before releasing him of his duties.

Martin Glenn may have been given a vote of confidence on Monday but I don’t see how. In the space of 12 months, Sampson and Sam Allardyce have left the post as manager of the women’s and men’s teams, respectively, in disgrace.

Sampson was cleared over safeguarding worries after an alleged relationship with a teenaged player while in charge of Bristol Academy. Despite that, FA bosses clearly felt he needed to take an education and mentoring course to address the player-coach issues raised. That alone should have set off the alarm that perhaps he was not the right man for the job.

Many have argued that Allardyce didn’t do much wrong but that smells of certain members of the press refusing to say a bad word about their friend.

The reason I mention the former Crystal Palace manager is because his name comes up repeatedly when talking about Sampson. Almost as if the people commenting on the women’s team have no knowledge of the women’s game outside of major tournaments.

All of a sudden everyone has an opinion on women’s football, which is fine, but these opinions should have been made public years ago when the game was begging to be reported on.

In talking about a replacement for Sampson, one journalist mentioned Emma Hayes, which is perfectly acceptable. But it was the easy name, the one that everyone knew because she is currently in charge of Chelsea.

What about Mo Marley? Wouldn’t she be the more obvious choice, given she is already part of the international set-up and it would be a seamless transition.

She is currently working with the under-19 squad and her promotion would be very similar to how the men’s team replaced Allardyce with Gareth Southgate.

Or what about Marieanne Spacey? Former assistant to Sampson, before moving upstairs prior to Euro 2017 to lead a new international player development programme, she has worked with this group of players.

They would feel comfortable with her and it wouldn’t be like starting again, they can just continue on their progression to the 2019 World Cup.

Or even Nick Cushing. He has turned Manchester City into one of the best teams in Europe; imagine what he could do with the Lionessess.

While it is fine to have a say in the discussion, sometimes it is best to stay quiet if you are not aware of all the facts.

That was evident after former England international David James sent a series of tweets, in which he said:

“Mark Sampson sacked as @England women’s manager?! Seems some wasted talent can’t deal with the fact they aren’t good enough! #enialuko.

“I spent time with the players, no-one suggested there was an issue. However, the noise is coming from a noisy quarter. #selfinterest

“Basically, Mark Sampson is being told, ‘even though you may have changed, you are being F**KED because of your past.’ #bollocks

“No, if it was bad enough at Bristol, he should never of had the England job! The complainants are bang average players, gaining notoriety.”

Clearly, James has been living under a rock and is spewing out words at random, hoping they form coherent sentences. To blame Aluko for Sampson’s sacking is bizarre.

There could be an argument, not a very good one, to be made that Aluko was being phased out of the squad, with younger players being chosen ahead of her. 

And while I will accept that England didn’t exactly miss Aluko in the Netherlands — Jodie Taylor and Fran Kirby were outstanding, and there are some very talented youngsters coming through — Sampson’s sacking was never because some supposed Aluko vendetta against him.

Other players had spoken out against the way they had been treated; Aluko’s club teammate Katie Chapman said she felt she had stopped being picked after she told Sampson she was going through a divorce.

There was the allegation hanging over him from Spence, who was asked how many times she had been arrested.

Sampson denies these allegations and the official line is that he was dismissed for “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” while he was at Bristol. James should look at those claims before pointing the finger at the players who rightfully questioned Sampson’s character.

People are also questioning the celebrations with Sampson after Nikita Parris’s goal in the 6-0 victory over Russia. For me, it will go down as their version of the infamous Luis Suarez T-shirt debacle, when Liverpool players wore training tops defending the Uruguayan after he had racially abused Patrice Evra.

You would like to think those players look back at the incident and regret the decision, the same way the England players will — 24 hours later, Sampson was sacked.

I could see why they did it, to show solidarity with their boss who had made them one of the best teams in the world.

But Aluko was right to be furious after. These players were supposed to be her friends. She stuck her neck out for them and it ultimately cost her her international career.

The same players who, when asked what happened, according to Sanderson said they “couldn’t remember” and “no comment.”

In the end it became a them against us situation, the “outcasts” v the players still included in Sampson’s plans.

Going forward, England will recover from this but it may take time. Perhaps the FA can use this as a chance to really propel the women’s game forward.

Get more women involved at boardroom level. More diversity.

They claim that things are in place to make sure that what happened with Sampson never happens again and while I’m sceptical, perhaps this is what they needed to finally get themselves in gear.

With threats of a total overhaul of the FA or government intervention, it is clear that change is on the horizon. Though once again it is reaction to a situation that could so easily been avoided if those in charge were competent.


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