Mark Sampson jokes that he is busier than Donald Trump these days – and the England Women manager would have it no other way.
While the controversial US President presses on with his mission of making America “great again”, Sampson has gone a long way towards turning around a failing Lionesses team in the course of his own first four years in office. And he has managed it while giving up one of the loves he shares with Trump: golf.
Sampson was spotted swinging a pole in a golf-club motion on the St George’s Park training pitch where England spent much of June training hard ahead of their European Championship mission. While his players were warming down, Sampson was dreaming of finding the middle of a fairway – any fairway – off the tee.
Not that the 34-year-old gets the chance to swing an actual golf club these days.
“I used to back in the day, a long, long time ago, but I think Donald Trump plays more golf than me now – he’s obviously got less to do,” said Sampson. “I can’t remember the last time I picked up a golf club unfortunately. Pretty sad.”
Welshman Sampson took the reins in late 2013 and guided the Lionesses to third place at the World Cup two years ago.
The mission to Holland this summer is one that England firmly believe can be a triumphant trip, and Sampson takes enormous pride in his work, having overhauled the team that fluffed their last shot at a European Championship.
The group-stage exit in Sweden four years ago spelled the end for Sampson’s predecessor Hope Powell and when the Football Association offered Sampson the job, he made sure it sat well at home. A proud Cardiff boy, Sampson turned to father Derek for advice.
“It was my dad who convinced me to do it,” Sampson said. “It seems a long time ago now, but it was a fantastic opportunity and it’s been a privilege and an honour to get on the training pitch, and to represent England over 50 times as the head coach is something I never dreamed would be the case.”
Powell had 15 years at the helm, but expectations of England were very different then. The FA has since pumped huge sums into the women’s game and Sampson accepts results must follow.
The greater the success England achieve, the more potential future Steph Houghtons and Fran Kirbys will be kicking balls in parks, and the FA is looking to double participation numbers in women’s and girls’ football by 2020.
“We treat every game as if it’s our last and we prepare thoroughly, and we treasure every single moment that we’re together because we know in football it can end very quickly,” Sampson said. “Hopefully not, hopefully we’re here for a long, long time, win lots of trophies and establish ourselves as the best team in the world.”
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