Mark Sampson has raised the possibility of peace talks with Eni Aluko but will need to initiate the dialogue himself.
The England Women manager is battling to win over those still siding with the striker who made allegations against him last year of bullying, discrimination and racism, as part of a Football Association cultural review of management.
Aluko raised a grievance and Sampson was cleared on all counts by an FA review and independent investigation, but he knows the public perception of him has changed in a negative sense since the claims surrounding his management were made known. The Professional Footballers’ Association and anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out have also called for further examination of Aluko’s claims.
If Sampson and Aluko could resolve their differences through conversation or mediation then a long shadow over the women’s game in England would be removed.
Sampson told Press Association Sport on Tuesday: “I’ve made it very clear, from the moment I spoke with Eni face to face (to say) that she would be left out of the squad, that at any point I’d be available to meet again.
“As with any England player, I’m open to a phone call or a sit-down conversation to discuss whatever they feel they need to discuss to help us move forward as a team.”
Within days of Aluko giving evidence to the FA review in May 2016, she was dropped by England and has not been recalled. Sampson told the 102-cap striker she was left out for “unlioness behaviour” but has denied that related in any way to her evidence, which was provided to the FA by Aluko on a confidential basis.
Press Association Sport understands Aluko attempted to initiate contact with Sampson in August 2016, sending him an email to which sources say she has yet to receive a reply. It is also understood he has not requested to meet Aluko on visits to see other England players at Chelsea Ladies’ training ground since that time, and that his latest comments were met with some scepticism.
Sampson said he had “universal support” from the current England squad, and insisted his “conscience is clear” regarding all the allegations from Aluko. They include the claim that he asked a mixed-race midfielder if she had been arrested previously, and that he told Aluko to ensure relatives travelling from Nigeria did not bring Ebola with them to the Wembley friendly against Germany in November 2014.
Sampson is thankful to have been cleared of the claims and the 34-year-old Welshman is trying to set aside the criticisms that have come his way from the general public, which have been evident on social media.
“I can’t control what other people think and other people feel,” he said.
He received a boost when Euro 2017 Golden Boot winner Jodie Taylor threw her support behind him on Tuesday, saying in her view Sampson remains the right man for England.
Taylor said: “He’s a great coach, he’s a great person, he’s a great man, and he’s helped to take my game to another level.
“I love his values that he’s instilled in the squad.”
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