Gareth Southgate: Mark Sampson comment was based on how I had found him

Gareth Southgate does not regret calling Mark Sampson an “excellent character” despite his sacking as England Women’s manager for “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” during his time at a previous club.

The Football Association has been subject of scrutiny and no little criticism over its handling of Sampson and the issues surrounding him in recent weeks.

The subject of denied accusations of racism and bullying made by former England player Eni Aluko, the 34-year-old was instead sacked following a historic safeguarding investigation into his conduct while Bristol Academy boss.

Investigations are ongoing and probes continue, making Southgate’s decision to last month back Sampson look foolhardy.

Asked if he regretted that comment or had a different view on Sampson now, the England manager said: “No, I think I said at the time you speak as you find with people.

“My dealings with Mark have always been very good. Obviously I am dealing in coaching meetings, in seminars and it is a different environment to the team, so I can’t comment on the outside those which I’ve met and talked with Mark.

“But I am not going to stand here and take back what I said: I found him to be a good character. As I say, I can’t comment on the other things because they are facts of which I am not fully aware of.”

Southgate also said during England’s last meet up that he had no concerns about the culture at the FA – although issues behind the scenes have come into sharper focus since then.

Things have unravelled quickly around the Sampson issue as pressure mounted on figures such as chief executive Martin Glenn and technical director Dan Ashworth – two of the key figures in Southgate’s appointment,

“Well, it’s clearly not been a good week for us an organisation,” England boss said. “I think the ins and outs, and the whys and wherefores of the cases are very sensitive and difficult to comment on.

“I think absolutely the biggest shame is that the team have done brilliantly over the last three of four years. Mark has played a massive part in that and the focus has gone from what has been such a fantastic story of the girls qualifying for two semi-finals, a massive boost for the women’s game, and now the focus has gone off of that.

“Hopefully, as quickly as possible, the focus can go back onto the team performing well, the team continuing to make strides that are really important for women’s football and the positivity around there performances. Always, anything that takes always from that is a real shame.”

Source: By PA Sport Staff

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