Eni Aluko accused the England Women team of a “selfish” attitude after their public show of support for under-pressure boss Mark Sampson during the 6-0 win over Russia.
Every member of the starting XI raced to the bench after Nikita Parris netted the 11th-minute opener, and the exuberant scenes were the clearest indication yet that Sampson has the full support of his players.
Aluko is the 102-cap former England player whose allegations of racism, harassment and bullying in the Lionesses camp sparked an investigation into Sampson’s alleged conduct.
Sampson has been cleared twice, by a Football Association review and an independent investigation, and he firmly denies any wrongdoing.
However, anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out and the Professional Footballers’ Association have both called for a fresh look at evidence.
Aluko was not present at Tranmere’s Prenton Park for England’s opening 2019 World Cup qualifier.
But after seeing footage of the celebrations, she wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Sampson said he was surprised by the team’s reaction towards him.
He said of being mobbed next to the dugout: “I didn’t foresee anything coming really, in terms of that.”
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.
Sampson added: “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.”
Parris insisted it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to rush towards Sampson after hitting the first goal, and said it was “definitely not” pre-planned.
The 23-year-old Liverpudlian was not a member of the squad at the time the alleged incidents at the centre of the claims against Sampson are said to have taken place.
Parris said of her reaction: “It came natural to me, to show that we are a united team.
“We know the situation that’s been happening in the media.
“I think it’s important that I get my point across, (which) is that I wasn’t involved in it, I wasn’t in the squad at the time, but in my experience of being in the squad I feel valued and supported and the whole team feels that way, so our celebration was a fitting celebration.”
She added: “I can’t celebrate on behalf of Eni. I can only celebrate on behalf of myself and how I feel in that moment.
“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.”
Lianne Sanderson, who is backing her fellow former England striker Aluko, said of Tuesday night’s events: “I’m actually lost for words and feel physically sickened by all of this. They successfully manipulated the players into a them against us.”
When asked why players would feel compelled to support Sampson, she added on Twitter: “Because they won’t get picked. These are some of the adults that witnessed things that were said, they say they can’t remember.”