Jodie Taylor says Mark Sampson is “a great man” and the right manager for England Women but admitted she was stunned by Eni Aluko’s allegations.
Claims of bullying and racism were submitted by Aluko to the Football Association in May 2016, prompting an internal FA review and an independent investigation, both of which came to light last month and both of which cleared Sampson. Sampson has vowed to remain in his post, and insists there is nothing for which he should apologise.
England’s players had stayed out of the debate until Tuesday, with midfielder Jill Scott not commenting 24 hours earlier when asked about Sampson during the Soccerex convention in Manchester. Euro 2017 Golden Boot winner Taylor said the claims from Aluko were alien to her experience of life in the England camp.
Taylor told Press Association Sport: “I was quite shocked when the news came out. It’s not anything that I’ve witnessed, nothing I’ve seen or experienced myself.”
A central allegation in the investigation was that Sampson, as part of an exercise comparing midfielders being booked to receiving a police caution, asked a mixed-race player if she had been arrested before, and then jokingly suggested she had been arrested four times. Striker Aluko said the incident, which had been relayed to her, had “derogatory racial and prejudicial connotations”. Sampson was cleared.
Taylor said: “From my experience in the squad, I’ve only got positive things to say. I absolutely love the environment, I love being a Lioness. It’s the best football environment I’ve ever played in and I’ve played for a lot of clubs in a lot of countries.
“I don’t condone racism or bullying or any type of discrimination, whether it’s from players or staff or anyone, and I’ll always have my team-mates’ backs, but it’s just something I haven’t seen or heard of or experienced myself.
“We’ve got a great environment and we’ve got great people within the squad. I’ve had a great time since I’ve been brought into the squad for the last three years, and I’ve developed so much as a person and as a player, for being around such good people.”
That is why she would hate for Sampson to lose his job, and why she is relieved no evidence was found by barrister Katharine Newton to endanger his position. Taylor was repeatedly overlooked by Sampson’s predecessor Hope Powell. Asked if she would want him to stay as England manager, Taylor said: “Absolutely. I’ve loved my time under Mark.
“He’s picked me, which is an improvement from previously, but in all seriousness 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.
“I look from two years ago and the World Cup until now, and mentally we’re in a much stronger place. We’re a much more together team, there’s a lot of mutual respect in the group, and physically and tactically in terms of football we’ve come on leaps and bounds.”