Not English, and not a female. The Football Association promised to select the manager of the national women’s team regardless of nationality or sex and it delivered on that pledge yesterday when it appointed Welshman Mark Sampson.
Though not English, Sampson does work in the English game – he coached outsiders Bristol Academy, one of the few leading teams not associated with a men’s club. Last season Bristol came second in the FA Women’s Super League and reached the final of the Women’s FA Cup.
Indeed, more controversial than his sex or nationality is his age. At 31, Sampson is younger than England regulars Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey and Rachel Brown, and the same age as the current captain, Casey Stoney.
However, he has said in the past: “In every job I’ve been in, I’ve been asked about my age, ever since I was working with senior players at Swansea when I was 23. As I say to our players, once you cross the white line, if you are good enough you are old enough.”
Sampson worked under Roberto Martinez as manager of Swansea’s centre of excellence before taking over at Bristol five years ago.
He got the job ahead of Brent Hills, the former assistant to Hope Powell, who was fired in the summer after 15 years at the helm. Hills had won four matches out of four to put England on course for a place at World Cup 2015, but the opposition were moderate and there was a feeling that both the players and the FA wanted a complete break from Powell’s regime. More experienced contenders such as Paul Riley, Tony DiCicco and Keith Boanas, who all work abroad, were passed over.
Sampson has been given a four-year contract. Trevor Brooking, the FA’s Director of Football Development, said: “We were extremely impressed by Mark’s vision for the England women’s team.”