Less than 24 hours after leading England to a 6-0 win in a World Cup qualifying match, Mark Sampson has lost his job as England head coach.

It is a sad end for Sampson, who led England to third place at the 2015 World Cup and to the Euro 2017 semi-finals.

Such high achievement put him in the spotlight, but it has been over the past six weeks that Sampson has become headline news, and it has occurred for all the wrong reasons following allegations of bullying, harassment and racism.

Yet when the Football Association announced that his contract had been terminated, the reason was “inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour” concerning his time as manager of Bristol Academy, prior to taking the England job.

Mark Sampson during his time with Bristol Academy

Mark Sampson rose through the ranks to take on the world with England

Support for Sampson from within the FA over Eni Aluko’s accusations had seemed absolute. He was cleared by its own review and an independent review, and there was no suggestion he would be sacked.

But the issue lingered. Both inquiries were denounced as flawed, with anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out and the Professional Footballers’ Association both calling for evidence to be reassessed.

When Chelsea midfielder Drew Spence came forward with a statement, that re-examination of the case looked to move a step closer. She was the player at the centre of an allegation of racism involving Sampson, dating back to the 2015 China Cup.

England’s players celebrate

Yet even in the minutes leading up to the announcement of his departure, the FA’s website led its news with a story titled ‘Sampson’s delight’.

Sampson attended the FA Women’s Football Awards on September 8 in London, taking a seat next to Baroness Sue Campbell, the organisation’s head of women’s football.

Earlier in the same week he said he had a “clear conscience” over the allegations made against him by Aluko.

The 102-cap striker has not played for England since making the accusations in confidence to FA technical director Dan Ashworth in May of last year. Sampson told Aluko she was left out for “unlioness behaviour”.

England’s players showed support for Sampson in Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier against Russia. After Nikita Parris scored the opening goal, the entire starting XI charged to the bench to celebrate with Sampson.

Parris later defended that move after Aluko tweeted to suggest it was a sign of “disrespect” towards her.

Considering his team had won 6-0 against the second seeds in their World Cup group, Sampson appeared downbeat after the game.

The toll of recent weeks looked to be wearing him down, but there was still no indication he was about to depart. He had lifted England to new heights in the world game.

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Mark Sampson

A confident coach, who learned his trade at low levels with the FA of Wales, Cardiff City and Swansea City, Sampson’s skills were taking him on a rapid upward curve.

A successful four-year spell with Women’s Super League side Bristol caught the eye of England. The minnows reached two FA Cup finals, and praise was heaped on their young boss.

Long-serving England boss Hope Powell left after a dreadful Euro 2013, and in December of that year Sampson was appointed.

He proved an affable leader of the team, highly popular with the players, quick-witted and media-friendly.

Eni Aluko lodged a complaint against the England boss

Recently Sampson had been force-feeding his squad a slew of slogans, chief among them his insistence they will “find a way to win”.

This year they have beaten the United States and France, rising to third in the FIFA world rankings. England are a team that “find solutions”, Sampson would say.

An audacious move to name his Euro 2017 squad three months early looked to be a masterstroke. He told his players they would have “50 years to live as legends” if they roared to the title, but the Lionesses ran out of steam against hosts Holland in the semi-finals.

Sampson also faced embarrassing new questions after this altercation with Lucy Bronze

Then came the stunning revelations about the investigations that had been happening in the background.

Yet while the FA said it still stands by the findings of the independent review, it instead revealed it had unearthed “clear evidence of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour by a coach” before he took the England role.

It remains to be seen how Sampson’s achievements on the field will be tarnished by events off it.

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