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Monday, 12 March, 2001, 15:55 GMT
The highs and lows of Britton
Sammy Britton
Britton hopes to rise again
Everton LFC defender Sammy Britton talks candidly to BBC Online's women's football correspondent Tony Leighton about her drugs-related suspension from the England team.

When the England women's soccer squad meets up for next week's friendly international against Spain, there will be a notable absentee from the ranks.

Everton full back Sammy Britton, cast out of the squad in November after admitting to smoking marijuana, is still serving a suspension imposed by England's head coach Hope Powell.

The defender, who has since been in rehabilitation and is now hoping to regain her England place and take part in June's European Championships finals, made her admission after taking a routine drugs test ahead of the Euro 2001 play-off qualifier against the Ukraine.

The test ironically proved negative and no disciplinary action was taken by the FA.

But Powell, a friend and former playing colleague of Britton, took the decision to suspend the player from international football.

If I'd gone on to play in the game and my test did come back positive, action might have been taken against the England team as well as myself
  Sammy Britton

Powell said: "Sammyıs test may have been negative, but she had admitted smoking marijuana so I felt action had to be taken.

"I wanted to send a clear message to the whole of women's football that this type of behaviour is not acceptable."

As well as being frozen out of the England set-up, Britton also served a self-imposed six-week suspension from club football as she went into a period of FA-instigated counselling.

She also began a new job as a behaviour support assistant at a Huddersfield school.

Now the 27-year-old full back, who with 44 caps is one of England's most experienced internationals, is back in Women's Premier League action for Everton.

She said: "I hadn't smoked marijuana for years because it was on the banned list, but a chain of events in my personal life got me down so badly that I turned to it.

Hope Powell
England boss Hope Powell
"Some people would have had a few drinks, but I decided to have a smoke - and as soon as I'd finished, I regretted it.

"Although it had been over a week since I had smoked the marijuana, I knew it would probably show up in a test.

"If I'd gone on to play in the game and my test did come back positive, action might have been taken against the England team as well as myself."

Now back to full fitness and determined to put her drugs shame behind her, she is looking to the future in a positive frame of mind.

"I feel fine now," she said, "even though I'm still angry with myself for what I did.

"I've had great support from everybody at the FA and Everton, I'm enjoying my work and my life again and I'm very focused about my football.

"After playing in all of England's European Championships qualifiers up to that second leg of the play-off against Ukraine, I am desperate to play in the finals in Germany.

"I will have to prove myself all over again, but the best way to get over what I've been through will be to fight my way back into the England team."

Focused and desperate she may be, but Britton will have to produce a run of top class Everton performances in order to re-claim her place in the England squad.

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