Mark Sampson: 'England Women well-prepared'

Sampson: 'England Women well-prepared'
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England Women manager Mark Sampson insists that his side are unaffected by the off-the-field attention surrounding allegations of racism against him.

England Women manager Mark Sampson has insisted that his side are undistracted and fully prepared as they begin their qualification campaign for the 2019 World Cup.

Media attention has been firmly focused on the Lionesses in recent weeks amid allegations that Sampson made racial remarks to Eni Aluko and Drew Spence in 2015.

Two investigations cleared Sampson of any wrongdoing after Aluko alleged that Sampson had asked mixed-race midfielder Spence how many times she had been arrested.

Last week it emerged that the FA could re-open the case, however, after Spence submitted a statement to back up Aluko's claims and complained that the original investigations had not seen fit to interview her.

Sampson, meanwhile, strenuously denies the allegations and is adamant that the controversy has not affected his charges in the run-up to several big games, starting tonight with a qualifier against Russia.

"We have to be professional and go about our business in a professional manner and that's what the players and the staff have done," he told PA.

"Their preparation for this game has been as thorough as it has been for any game, whether it be a European Championship semi-final or a World Cup semi-final.

"The players are ready to play now and they're looking forward to the game. They are footballers.

"I'm working with a strong group of women who understand what they need to do to be at their best and they will go through everything they need to to make sure they're ready for this game.

"They're excited about representing their country. They've worked hard throughout their careers to be given the chance to represent England and they're looking forward to doing that again."

Sampson, 34, has been in charge of the side for almost four years.

England's head coach Mark Sampson walks on the field at the Moncton Stadium on June 8, 2015
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