Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Miliband the illusionist must conjure up more with less (Daily Telegraph)

The Labour Party must convince the voters that saving money can produce social dividends, says Mary Riddell.

2. It's time the Tories learned to love the unions (Guardian)

Nostalgia for a tussle with the unions still excites some, writes David Skelton. But modern Conservatives need to befriend, not alienate them.

3. Austerity loses an article of faith (Financial Times)

The UK industrial revolution shows the Reinhart-Rogoff thesis on debt is not always right, says Martin Wolf.

4. Even if he loses, Alex Salmond will still win (Times)

Whichever way Scotland votes on independence, the First Minister will wrest more power away from Westminster, writes Alice Thomson. 

5. Shaker Aamer and the dirty secrets of the war on terror (Guardian)

The scandal of Britain's last Guantánamo inmate encapsulates the barbarity of a mutating conflict without end, says Seumas Milne.

6. Sovereign Scots may have to drop sterling (Financial Times)

Edinburgh should try to secure monetary union with England, but it would probably fail, argues John Kay.

7. France's meltdown is a stark warning to anyone who wants Red Ed as PM (Daily Mail)

Labour is promising precisely the same policies as Hollande’s socialists, writes Daniel Hannan.

8. If Abenomics works, Britain's leaders will look like monkeys (Guardian)

George Osborne should abandon the tribal morality of austerity and, like Japan, print money not for banks but for people, says Simon Jenkins.

9. A state-sector version of Eton is long overdue (Independent)

But it is not clear that the practicalities of the Durand scheme have been thought through, says an Independent editorial.

10. Our US protector is looking the other way (Daily Telegraph)

The free-riding nations of Europe are making a big mistake by slashing their defence budgets, argues David Blair.

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Mark Sampson's exit leaves the FA still trying to convince itself of its own infallibility

Football's governing body won't be able to repair the damage to its reputation in silence.

By the end, it appeared as if Mark Sampson was weathering the storm.

Despite personal reflections that the uproar and scandal that has surrounded his recent tenure as England women's football manger was taking a toll, he seemed, as of Tuesday night, firmly ensconced in the post he had held since 2013.

Player Eniola Aluko’s claims of bullying and racism against the coach – given little backing from teammates and, on balance, disregarded by consecutive enquiries – remained a persistent story, yet talk of a fresh investigation were trumped in importance by Sampson’s continued presence at training and in the dugout.

The BBC’s occasionally rabid attachment to proceedings gave the saga prolonged oxygen, but when Sampson seemed to retain the FA’s support – taking charge of the Lionesses’ 6-0 win over Russia on Tuesday night – the worst appeared to be over.

With hindsight, the vultures were simply sharpening their talons.

Sampson’s sacking – less than 24 hours after that Russia game – came after a report was unearthed detailing a historic complaint against him from his time coaching Bristol Academy – a job he left to take up the England post.

In what has long become customary, the FA received these claims nearly four years ago yet failed to act definitively – initially concluding that their new coach was “not a safeguarding risk”. However as the recent crisis depended, the full details of these initial accusations were allegedly not revealed to senior leadership.

Confirming Sampson's departure on Wednesday, FA chief executive Martin Glenn carried a pained expression reminiscent of former incumbent Mark Palios, who, in another entry in the annals of great FA crises, resigned in 2004 as a result of an affair with FA secretary Faria Alam.

Glenn will hope that his own head is not sought in the weeks ahead as his conduct throughout the Sampson saga is probed.

It also marks yet another turbulent 12 months for the beleaguered governing body, who almost exactly a year ago to the day, parted company with England men’s coach Sam Allardyce after just a single game in charge – the former Bolton and Sunderland coach getting the bullet as a result of transfer advice offered to undercover journalists.

The Allardyce departure was handled with uncharacteristic efficiency – a symptom, perhaps, of the initial scepticism behind his appointment rather than any particular reflection on his crimes.

With clear-eyed judgement, it is difficult not to have a portion of sympathy for Sampson – who, cleared by those investigations, maintained the very visible backing of his squad – right up until Wednesday’s bitter denouement.

That he’s been paid in full for the three-year contract signed last summer speaks for how soft a line the FA took on the events that forced the sacking – hoping, perhaps, for as quiet an ending as possible for both parties.

Regrettably, for the FA at least, considerable damage to their reputation will not be something they can repair in silence – not in an era where women’s football enjoys such a high profile in the national consciousness and the body continues to mark itself an easy target for criticism. 

The exact contents of those 2014 allegations and that report are sure to be known down the line – non-disclosure agreements willing – but are as of now only conjecture and innuendo.

Without details, it’s difficult to know how hard to judge Sampson. The facts of his performance on the pitch mark him out as having been an accomplished coach. That is no longer the exclusive measure of success.

Detractors will murmur darkly about there being no smoke without fire, while his supporters will point to the unique nature of the job and the often confrontational elements of its duties.

Sampson, at 34, is still a relatively young man and may be able to coach again once the rancour has subsided – although with a reputation severely bloodied, will look on the two-year salary windfall with some gratitude.

Despite Glenn’s insistence that his former manager is “clear to work” in the sport, it’s hard to envisage his career ever resuming in the women’s game.

The FA itself is again left rudderless as it tries to convince itself of its own infallibility. Flabby management structures and the perception of being an antiquated country club – valid or not – will be revisited with relish.

Perhaps positively, it could herald a more honest conversation behind what success looks like for the national game as a whole. Inclusiveness and development of a robust culture are often the first words to disappear from the vocabulary once on field results start to falter.  

For once, the identity of the next coach is not the urgent dilemma facing the FA.

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