England boss Mark Sampson plays down training session brush-off from Lucy Bronze

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Under-fire England Women manager Mark Sampson has dismissed any fears of a rift with defender Lucy Bronze.

Sampson, who has been accused of racism and bullying by striker Eni Aluko, put his hands on Bronze’s shoulders during a training session at St George’s Park on Tuesday.

But pictures show the defender rejected his attempts of encouragement, shrugging Sampson off as she stood up.

It came with Sampson under increasing scrutiny but he rejected suggestions he and Lyon’s Bronze, who has 48 caps, had a problem.

He said: “No, absolutely not. With the players we’re working with we have a fantastic working relationship, the environment within the team is very positive.

“I can’t even recall it (the incident). I was pleased with the session, the players worked really hard.

“Bronzy has done exceptionally well. Let’s not forget at Euro 2013 she didn’t play and since then she has played a significant role in helping the team getting to where we have. She is a great character and a really good player.”

Sampson has denied the allegations made by Aluko and was cleared of any wrongdoing by both an internal Football Association review and an independent investigation.

Last week Sampson broke his silence on the matter to insist his ”conscience is clear”, and expressed his desire to move on.

He said: “It’s been difficult for everyone, not just myself but for everyone involved. It would be unfair for me to say just me and my family have found this really tough.

“The players and staff have. What we have to do now is make sure we’re professional when we’re on the field or in the meeting room. This group of players and staff will do that.

“A lot has gone on over the last year and Eni might not be in a position or want to speak which is something I completely respect. I’ve opened that door. Our focus is on moving on.

“I have to sit here and know I have told the truth. I can only control what I can control, and what other people feel about the situation is up to them.

“I have to be content I have done all I can, answered all the questions which have been put to me and be relaxed.

“It’s my job. I’m a professional football manager, my job is to support my players, support my team and do my best to help them improve.

“That has been the intention and what we will continue to do and it just feels again the team have taken another step forward on and off the field.”

The squad are preparing for next Tuesday’s opening World Cup qualifier against Russia at Tranmere and Sampson has spoken to the players about the issues surrounding his leadership.

He added: “It’s something we addressed when we first met up, to make it clear what the current situation was and the latest update. The players are fully aware of where we are.”

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