Thursday, 21 September 2017

Louder Than Words

For me, this goal celebration on Tuesday night - the first of 6 goals against Russia in the first World Cup qualifier from Prenton Park - led by goalscorer Nikita Parris and taken up by the whole team speaks louder than any words. At the risk of alienating some people and appearing controversial, I am deeply saddened and frustrated that the FA chose to sack Mark Sampson.

Let's look at the facts and admittedly this can be hard to do with such murky half statements, hints and suggestions that are swirling around this whole incident. Chelsea striker Eni Aluko made allegations of bullying and discrimination against Sampson, suggesting that she had not been picked for the squad because he is racist. Evidence flagged up to suggest a bullying practice within the team's coaching included a recorded commentary in which a coach said she is 'lazy as f*ck'. I see nothing racist in that comment. In fact what I see is a coach who has concerns over her commitment or capability to play for her country. In a TV interview Aluko stated that the first time she wasn't picked in eleven years occurred after such an incident. Surely the clue here is in her own words? Aluko is now thirty years of age and in two years time when it comes to the World Cup she will be 32/33. A manager must consider the long term benefits to the squad and unfortunately for Aluko that may mean not being selected and allowing younger players a chance to shine. The vibe I get from Eni Aluko is that she is someone who believes that playing for her country is a right not a privilege that she must work for.  

Aluko subsequently claimed that Sampson made a remark regarding her Nigerian family and the Ebola virus, a remark he strenuously denies. Now if this remark did actually occur then Sampson is an idiot. Is he a racist? I don't think so. To me this is just an example of ill advised banter in a culture that places 'bants' highly; the kind of stereotyping comment that he, as a Welshman, has probably born the brunt of many times with the old 'sheep shagging' gag. If he did say that, I don't for one moment think race or the colour of Aluko's skin entered into his mind. 

Sampson was cleared by two inquiries over Aluko's allegations, and it's clear from that photo that the team have the upmost faith in him as a manager and as a person. Aluko's sour grapes spilled over onto Twitter with a near incoherent ramble that effectively alienated her even further from her former Lioness teammates, proving once again that she simply isn't team orientated. This came not long after she called everyone who attested to having positive experiences of Sampson's coaching 'enablers' for racism - an unfair comment given that her desire for a further inquiry was based on hearing all views...all views except perhaps those that do not support her own experience perhaps?

The tipping point to this whole saga came yesterday when fresh allegations came to light regarding Sampson's previous role as the coach of Bristol Academy. This is where things get complicated as, beyond a mention of a 'safeguarding issue', we haven't been told what this complaint amounts to. However what we do now is that he was cleared in this inquiry too. So why is it that a man who has been proved innocent three times in a row has been sacked for misconduct?

And why is it the FA paid Aluko £80,000 compensation? The FA come out of this terribly it must be said; they claim not to have known about the Bristol allegation when they came to hire Sampson for the prestigious England job in 2013. The news only came to light, they say, in 2014 whereupon the inquiry commences that subsequently cleared Sampson's name. What makes things very murky indeed is the fact that this wasn't raised during these fresh allegations from Aluko.

In summary, it's a terrible mess and one which I feel the Lionesses will struggle to overcome. Losing a skilled, talented and passionate coach like Sampson will not help a team who have, under his tutelage, become one of the strongest international sides in the game and this has immediately seen them start the road to the World Cup on the back foot. Equally, should any new manager reinstate Aluko to the squad (which I feel they will inevitably do, for fear of being branded racist themselves) it will make for a decidedly fractious team given the comments that Aluko has made regarding what she perceives to be miss-placed faith and trust in Sampson. 

I don't know, you ever get the feeling that we're not allowed successes in this country? It seems we as a nation delight in building people up only to knock them down. I know I won't be in step with everyone's opinion when I say this, but speaking as a long term fan of women's football, I fear a good manager's career has been ruined here.


  1. Replies
    1. Ah the self imposed safety of the succinct reply. Care to elaborate? I mean, I laid out my opinion, you're perfectly entitled to do that with your own, especially when challenging someone else's in such a manner.

  2. Sorry but dont agree with any of what you say, you yourself ask why the FA paid EA £80'000, it wasn't for no reason was it? I'm surprised that you call yourself a Socialist & a Corbynista, that statement reads like something out of the gutter press. Mark Sampson is obviously dodgy, no matter how well he has done, some of the things I have heard about his time with Bristol Academy would lead me to believe he should not be allowed around young women. Yes he may not have committed any offences (provable) but that doesn't not mean that he should be given a green light. The safeguarding of children and young people should always be of paramount importance. You make this statement without any knowledge of any of the facts of the case, I think the FA messed up, he should never have been given the job in the first place, it sends out entirely the wrong message. You also need to remember that since he was employed the abuse on football scandal has exploded, so I totally understand why they expect a high standard of behaviour from National managers and coaches. Secondly you say, that it was not racist of MS to say to EA that she should be careful that her family dont bring Ebola to the game. Yes it is racist, would he have said that to anybody other player? No, I think not. Yes he denied saying that but then contradicted himself and said that he had had some conversation with EA about Ebola, so the guy isn't honest. I dont blame the current FA executive I blame the previous one for employing him, end of.

    1. Thank you for responding more fully.

      Firstly, the facts of his conduct at Bristol Academy had not come to light when I first posted this. Look at the date of the post, it's not that I haven't researched the facts of the case, it's that they HADN'T been reported at any length at that stage. However, the matter that ultimately put the nail in his coffin is completely isolated from the Aluko saga, and the FA has said as much.

      The FA have messed up here, giving him the job in the first place that is not in any doubt now. However, you equally cannot claim that he was not good at the job he did or inspired such faith and solidarity in his players, which is what I centre this post around. If you accept that Sampson's sacking was, as the FA claim, solely down to the incident at Bristol coming to light, then you must give him the benefit of the doubt for now in relation to the racism claims. And to so so means you must consider the personal grievances EA may have in relation to Sampson, which is what I lay out here. With that in mind, it is easy to see why so many of the team were prepared to stand by him...or are they all racists?

      You cite my own question about EA's compensation as proof to challenge my opinion, yet you refuse to elaborate on the other questions I raised, such as the fact it appears it is perfectly acceptable to some people, the FA, and clearly yourself to treat as guilty a man who has, at this stage, been proven innocent three times over. The real problem here, indeed the key thing we agree on is the FA messed up. There clearly isn't the right structures in place when it comes to assessing candidates and any risk. And to me, this is endemic with the FA's opinion of the womens game as a whole; it's as if they say 'it's only girls, it doesn't matter as much' and it is viewed in several aspects of how the sport is managed.

      But what are you actually saying here - consider your words not just in this case, but in any walk of life - you're saying that someone who gives off, to you at least, a dodgy vibe, who maybe has had some suspicions against his character but these have been unfounded, should never be considered suitable for work? What if that person even went to gaol but was proven innocent. Are you going to go 'well, no smoke without fire', and refuse to give them an opportunity? What about those who have made mistakes in the past, who have done things wrong: is their potential contributions to society to be cast aside now? If you ask me, speaking as a socialist and someone who has worked with ex offenders in gaols and probation for a number of years, that is the attitude that belongs far more to the gutter press. And if you don't like that snap judgement, consider you've just made it about me, ignoring a record of activism that I can certainly stand beside with great pride because you happen to disagree with me about one subject.

      As for the racism charge, whose to say he wouldn't have said that to any other player with a family who were coming to, or indeed returning to, England from abroad? When I last checked Ebola didn't discriminate or restrict itself to the colour of someone's skin.

      Much has been made of Sampson's contradiction, but all he said was that he had no memory of that comment, but did recall a time when EA herself discussed Ebola, relating to a cold caller who couldn't pronounce Eniola and said Ebola by mistake.