Gareth Southgate: Mark Sampson 'an excellent character'

Mark Sampson
Sampson led England to the semi-finals of Euro 2017 and third place at the 2015 World Cup

England boss Gareth Southgate has no issue with the culture of the Football Association and believes Mark Sampson, his counterpart for the women's team, is "an excellent character".

Allegations of "bullying and discrimination" were made against Sampson by striker Eniola Aluko.

They were followed by criticism of the culture in the England women's camp by Aluko's team-mate Lianne Sanderson.

Sampson, 34, and the FA have vehemently denied the claims.

He has been cleared of wrongdoing by both an FA investigation and a separate independent inquiry by barrister Katharine Newton - though he did say he was "looking to improve" his "communication style" following recommendations made by Newton.

Chelsea Ladies striker Aluko, 30, has not added to her 102 England caps since making her allegations as part of an FA inquiry into its management culture in 2016.

She subsequently made a grievance claim against the FA and later reached a settlement of around £80,000. The FA said this was to avoid the threat of an employment tribunal disrupting the squad's preparations for Euro 2017.

Sanderson, who has also not played for England since complaining about a mix-up over a presentation ceremony for her 50th cap, has told BBC Sport how the culture in the team was one where "everyone must conform".

She has also said she does not expect to be picked again after speaking out.

Southgate was questioned about the issue as he unveiled his England squad on Thursday. "I have read the independent report," he said.

"You speak as you find and Mark, in my view, is an excellent character, so I have no hesitation in saying that.

"I think clearly it's a really sensitive topic and a serious one, hence the independent report, and I understand all of the speculation around it."

And on the FA's culture he added: "I've always spoken about the importance of culture around the team. It's crucially important that we have that right in order that the atmosphere is right and the performance is enabled to be the best it possibly can. The culture is very good here.

"I can't talk for specific camps or meetings or age groups I've not been involved in but I sense we're heading in a good direction with everything that's been going on at St George's Park."

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