England Women manager Mark Sampson is confident the probe into allegations made against him and the accompanying furore has not disrupted his players’ focus on their World Cup qualification campaign.
The Lionesses’ quest to reach France in 2019 begins against Russia at Tranmere’s Prenton Park on Tuesday, with the spotlight still very much on their manager following the claims of racism and bullying against him made by Eni Aluko, which Sampson denies.
An internal investigation and independent inquiry cleared Sampson of any wrongdoing but last week the Football Association confirmed it has spoken to another England player, Drew Spence, in relation to allegations levelled at her international boss.
With Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor now calling for a fresh inquiry, the attention surrounding Sampson and the FA’s handling of the case has not subsided.
However, when it comes to matters on the pitch, Sampson believes it has not hampered his players’ preparations for Tuesday’s encounter with the Russians.
“We have to be professional and go about our business in a professional manner and that’s what the players and the staff have done,” he told Press Association Sport.
“Their preparation for this game has been as thorough as it has been for any game, whether it be a European Championship semi-final or a World Cup semi-final.
“The players are ready to play now and they’re looking forward to the game. They are footballers.
“I’m working with a strong group of women who understand what they need to do to be at their best and they will go through everything they need to to make sure they’re ready for this game.
“They’re excited about representing their country. They’ve worked hard throughout their careers to be given the chance to represent England and they’re looking forward to doing that again.”
With regards to himself, Sampson insists he has also been able to retain his focus.
“It’s my responsibility – my job is to prepare this team,” he added. “My job is to support these players and I’ve continued to do that throughout the course of this camp.”
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