Played seven, won five and drawn one. They are the statistics of Mark Sampson's reign as England manager after the affable Welshman replaced the long-serving Hope Powell in December 2013.
The former Bristol Academy boss, who he guided to their highest top-flight finish, now has his feet firmly under the table - in an office next to Roy Hodgson's at England's Wembley Stadium.
So far, England's record in FIFA Women's World Cup™ qualifying has been perfect, with six wins out of six - with the Lionesses' defence unbreached. Yet Sampson is still demanding improvements from his players as he seeks to implement his philosophy ahead of Canada 2015.
FIFA.com: When the announcement was made that Hope Powell was leaving the England job, did you see yourself as a contender to become the next England women’s coach?
Mark Sampson: I think there is a big difference between seeing yourself as a contender and wanting the job. I think my initial reaction wouldn’t have been to see myself as a contender, but was to have enough belief that if given the opportunity I would do a good job. It is a matter of going through the process of hopefully getting the opportunity to share your philosophy and share your ideas with the people who make those decisions and then if they felt they are the right ideas for the team moving forward, then hopefully I’d be given the position.
You spoke about your philosophy. What can we expect to see from your England teams?
First and foremost it’s about making sure we’ve got the right human qualities within the team. We’re going to be big on our values and our morals and the way in which we try and act and try to inspire people. We want to make sure we are good people who act in the right way and are fitting enough to wear an England jersey. Once you’ve got a group of people in the room who have that type of mentality and that type of character, and then you add a bit of hard work, I think you’ve got the chance to get yourself on the training pitch and start to influence a new style of play. Once we get to that stage we’ll certainly be looking to do some work on the training pitch and hopefully that will come alive in matches. We want to be a team who are positive, who try and attack and try to play on the front foot. But we also want us to have a lot of tactical discipline. Players understand that as much as we want to be positive and try to score goals, it is important we have a structure for that. That will take a lot of time but certainly we have made some good positive strides already.
We want to be a team who are positive, who try and attack and try to play on the front foot.
You have the frustrations of a national team manager now; in terms of the lack of time you are able to spend with the players. In terms of implementing your new philosophy, how valuable was the Cyprus Cup?
Like with any problem that arises, you can see it as a problem or you can see an opportunity. We understand that not having the players on a daily basis or not having them as much as probably a lot of other nations get access to their players, means we have to be a bit different with how we work it. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to put a lot of strategies in place, which means we communicate more regularly with the players, pass them information and form a stronger relationship in terms of them understanding what we want from them on a day-to-day basis. In terms of the actual time on the pitch and the time you’re together as a group, a tournament like the Cyprus Cup is invaluable. You’re not only getting the experience of a tournament schedule where you’re playing lots of games in a short space of time, and you’re also away from home for long periods of time. We’re getting the opportunity in the early stages to spend some time with the players, to get to know them as people. And then we get out onto the training ground and start to talk about how we want to play. We see what players are good at.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada next year is on the horizon. Are you already thinking about booking your ticket through qualification as quickly as possible?
No, we would be very naive to look any further than our next game in terms of results. Obviously results and good performances breed confidence and we want to be going into a major championship, if we were to qualify, in that frame of mind – confidence and knowing we’re coming off the back of some positive results. We have to bear the long term in the back of our mind. The focus has got to be day-to-day on the next match and making sure we’re at our absolute best in performing in those games and really get to the next level in our journey. In every performance we want to lay down a marker. And the important thing is every time we get the opportunity to put a performance on, we move that marker a little bit further.
When you were named coach of the England team, you said you would not be frightened to give young players a chance. How would you rate your young players’ performances so far?
I think the younger players have really brought a freshness and an energy to the squad, both on and off the pitch. We really try to inject a bit of speed into our game and certainly the younger players have come in and really helped that quality of our performances. I’ve been delighted with them. They’ve come in and they’ve embraced the environment. They’ve given it their best and that’s all we can ask them to do. The reason they’re there is because they’re talented, so when they come away with us it’s just about repeating the things they’ve been doing on a day-to-day basis at their clubs. You also cannot underestimate the part the senior players play in that. They’re the ones who welcome them into environment, who make sure they’re comfortable and they feel like they can be themselves. You have to give big credit who also have that mentality because for them, this is also new. They might have 100 caps and they might be very experienced players but they’re also stepping into a new environment, embracing new ideas and new concepts. You have to take your hat off to them if they’re willing to do that and if they’re willing to be open minded in helping us improve the team.