England manager Roy Hodgson has offered an apology to winger Andros Townsend after telling a joke at half-time during the recent England vs. Poland international in which an analogy about NASA using a monkey in space was used in relation to the Tottenham player.
Townsend insists he has not taken any offence to the joke, tweeting:
Hodgson is reported by the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton to be annoyed by what is seen as an attempt to smear his character, but the England boss issued the following clarification and apology:
I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time. There was absolutely no intention on my part to say anything inappropriate.
I made this clear straight away to Andros in the dressing room. I also spoke to Andros again on Wednesday.
He has assured me and the FA he did not take any offence and understood the point I was making in the manner I intended.
It is reported that Hodgson had been talking to Manchester United right-back Chris Smalling at the time and was attempting to use the analogy to encourage more use of Townsend, who had been England's best player in the first half.
Per Ashton, the joke reads as follows:
NASA decided they would finally send a man up in an capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions.
They fire the man and the monkey into space.
The intercom crackles “fire the retros”.
A little later, “Monkey, check the solid fuel supply".
Later still “Monkey, check the life support systems for the man”.
The astronaut takes umbrage and radios NASA. “When do I get something?”
NASA replied – in 15 minutes, feed the monkey.
The Mirror's Oliver Holt, who also ran the story, reports that the joke was told in full and that neither Townsend nor his father Troy, who works for the anti-racism Kick It Out campaign, are believed to be upset by the comments.
However, if even one player in the squad misinterpreted the former Fulham and WBA coach's comments, Hodgson would be well-advised to steer clear of similar references in the future.
The England coach is a clever and articulate man who seeks inventive ways to address his players. On this occasion, he knew Townsend was a major threat to the Poland defence and wanted England to get the ball to him at every opportunity.
While his intended message may have been lost among the subsequent misunderstanding, Hodgson was right to indicate that Townsend—who enjoyed a fine first half on the evening—could hold the key to the encounter.
While it is the job of journalists to report on such matters, the England boss has made clear it would be wrong to suggest that there had been any racist undertones to the wisdom which he attempted to offer his players.
Any such accusation would be little more than an attempt to damage Hodgson's reputation, particularly given the fact Townsend understood his manager's intentions.
However, Hodgson will, no doubt, be disappointed that news of one player taking offence has been leaked from the dressing room.
For England, that will, perhaps, be the most pertinent issue. Despite Hodgson believing he had offered immediate clarification, someone within the squad or coaching staff has taken the story to the media—indicating either a belief Hodgson was wrong or discontent with another aspect of his management.
Racism is a serious issue in all sectors of society, but misinterpretation of incidents such as this do little to help the overall fight against any form of prejudice in Britain today.
Hodgson has apologised if any misunderstanding occurred, and that is where the matter should now end.