Sampson backed by England captain Houghton

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England women finished third at the 2015 World Cup in Canada

England captain Steph Houghton says bullying allegations against head coach Mark Sampson have “hit the squad very hard” but he retains her support.

Sampson is accused of discrimination by Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko.

The 34-year-old has been cleared of wrongdoing by two investigations and vehemently denies the allegations.

I’m not a racist – Sampson

“It has been difficult, but of course I back him. Since Mark has been in charge I’ve enjoyed every moment,” Houghton, 29, told BBC Sport.

Sampson also told BBC Sport it had been a “difficult situation” for him and his family but he has “had support from the players since the allegations”.

Houghton added that the squad members were “all behind” Sampson and now “want to focus on qualification” for the World Cup, with an opening qualifier at home to Russia to come on 19 September.

“I’m disappointed because women’s football has come a long way over the last four or five years and we pride ourselves on inspiring the next generation,” she said.

“It’s a very difficult and complex situation but we now have to focus on the football more than ever.”

On Monday, it was announced senior Football Association executives will face a parliamentary inquiry over the investigations into Sampson’s alleged treatment of Aluko.

Aluko and England forward Lianne Sanderson, who has not played for England since complaining about a mix-up over a presentation ceremony for her 50th cap, have also been invited to give evidence.

A select committee hearing is planned for mid-October.

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