Our flair players need protection, insists Sampson
BRISTOL Academy boss Mark Sampson has launched a passionate plea for better protection for his players ahead of tomorrow's home game against Birmingham City in the FA Women's Super League.
The Vixens' boss has been unhappy with the officiating in the competition this season and believes opponents are targeting some of his most creative players to try and prevent them playing to their full potential.
"The competition has to look at the way the game is being officiated. I hope we are all striving to develop a product that is attractive and one that allows some of the incredible players we have in this league to express their talent on the pitch," said Sampson.
"There are some fantastic players in this competition, but they are just not being allowed to show their full potential with the severe lack of protection they are receiving from officials in the WSL.
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"In our game against Everton a fortnight ago, there were 14 fouls committed against us, eight of which on one player – Jess Fishlock – and five on Laura Del Rio.
"We played at Lincoln last weekend and it was exactly the same – foul after foul on these players.
"But Jess committed one foul after already having been kicked to the floor four times and she got a yellow card. I don't know why officials are allowing so many fouls against us to go unpunished. Maybe we are too nice.
"Because my players don't consistently shout and argue with officials, maybe we get a rough ride.
"We don't want to change. We don't want to argue and get on officials backs or demand that opposition players are booked, but we need them to take control of what is going on and protect players who show the courage to get on the ball and entertain the supporters. I hope I don't see a repeat on Saturday in the Birmingham game, but if I am being honest I can see it happening.
"Will Del Rio, will Fishlock, will Birmingham's Karen Carney get the protection the rules of the game allow? Will they be given the opportunity to express their talent to the full? I really hope so, not only for the cause of my team but for the cause of the competition."
Tomorrow's clash at the Stoke Gifford Stadium (6pm) will see Bristol take on Birmingham for the third time this season – but the first in the WSL. Birmingham knocked the Vixens out of the FA Women's Cup semi-finals with a 4-1 victory in the Midlands earlier in the season, and then drew 1-1 in a Continental Cup group game in Bristol.
The visitors currently lie second in the table while Bristol are third, but they are only separated by goals difference. The Vixens are asking spectators coming to the game to donate any old football kit they have to support Glad's House – a charity which helps street children in Kenya.
Grace Bunker, women's and girls' football development officer for the Gloucestershire FA, said: "We have recently had many enquiries from clubs regarding their old kit.
"As a result we have formed a partnership with Glad's House Charity to ensure it can be reused."
The charity can make use of full kit, replica shirts, tracksuits, socks, shin pads, goalkeeping gloves, boots, trainers, cones, bibs and other equipment, which can be left at the stadium's reception area before the match.