England women's celebration surprises Mark Sampson, angers Eni Aluko
Mark Sampson said he was surprised England's players rushed towards him to celebrate the opening goal in Tuesday's 6-0 World Cup qualifying win over Russia, while Eni Aluko accused the England team of showing "disrespect."
Every member of the starting XI raced to the bench after Nikita Parris netted the 11th-minute opener, and the exuberant scenes sparked criticism from former striker Eni Aluko, the player whose allegations of racism, harassment and bullying led to Sampson's alleged conduct being brought into focus.
Sampson has been cleared twice, by a Football Association review and an independent investigation, and he firmly denies any wrongdoing.
Alluding to Sampson's often-repeated claim of togetherness in the England ranks, Aluko wrote on Twitter: "The same players who unanimously voted me as their representative to discuss the teams central contracts with the FA. A benefit for all."
She added: "It goes without saying I'm delighted, relieved, blessed to be sat where I am right now. Blessings in disguise are often the best blessings.
"For the most together team in the world tonight's 'message' only shows a level of disrespect that represents division and selfish action."
Parris responded by saying it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to rush towards Sampson after hitting the first goal, and said it was neither rehearsed nor meant as an insult.
"I can't celebrate on behalf of Eni. I can only celebrate on behalf of myself and how I feel in that moment," she said. "I'm not here to disrespect anyone. I'm just here to show how happy I am to be in this squad and how happy I am to score for England. It's not an easy job to score in any international match."
And Sampson said of being mobbed by the dugout: "I didn't foresee anything coming really, in terms of that."
He said it was "not something that is usual" as he lavished praise on his players, for whom further goals came from Jodie Taylor, Jordan Nobbs, Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan, who struck twice in the second half.
Questioned further about the team's response to him, in the first game since the allegations against him became public knowledge, Sampson added: "Our initial joy is that we've scored the opening goal in a big World Cup qualifier.
"We've really preached team togetherness and support for your team-mates since I've come through the door. It's not something that is usual and it was something different but it's a quality we're always pushing with the players.
"It has been a difficult time for everyone, that's for sure. This has not been an easy situation and it is a serious situation, and we've tried our best to be as respectful as we possibly can towards that, but be fully aware that we've got a job to do.
"These women are representing their country tonight and they wanted to make sure their level of performance was right and their attitude was right."
It was also England's first game since losing 3-0 to Netherlands in the semifinals at Euro 2017, which may have also partly explained the euphoria in the team.