England boss Roy Hodgson faced the media for the first time on Thursday since his infamous "feed the monkey" joke—reported by Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror—grabbed headlines after the nation’s World Cup qualification victories over Montenegro and Poland.
The 66-year-old admitted the media fallout from the joke, which was merely aimed at expressing a wish to get the ball to Andros Townsend more often, irritated him, especially as the old NASA-styled quip appeared to be twisted by whoever leaked it to the press, per ESPN:
I'm not happy it happened. It was an innocent remark that was totally misconstrued. It's difficult to really regret innocent remarks, but I apologised and as far as I'm concerned the episode is over and done with.
Townsend, the player at whom Hodgson’s analogy was aimed, tweeted his support for the under-fire manager at the time of the event:
Hodgson has called for a line to be drawn under the incident, which produced enough coverage to tarnish England’s recent performances and automatic qualification for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil:
I'm not prepared to even discuss it any more, it happened, it's over. I'm pretty confident that everyone sees the episode for what it was, an innocent remark, totally misconstrued.
I don't think the players were too happy either because it should have been Steven Gerrard on the front page rejoicing. I don't want the achievement of the players getting to the World Cup to be tarnished any more.
Southampton duo Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana were surprise inclusions in a squad that focuses on youth, per the FA’s official report. Townsend and Everton youngster Ross Barkley also retained their places after an impressive start to the season.
Hodgson now has a great opportunity to test a crop of players who will fight for places in the World Cup squad. Both the matches with Chile and Germany offer a stern examination in England's backyard, providing fringe players with a huge chance to impress.
As highlighted by the rise of Townsend and Rickie Lambert in the last few months, Hodgson is more than willing to remain loyal to those who perform admirably for him.
Both the likeable manager and his squad need to remain completely focused in the run up to the games on Nov. 15 and Nov. 19. England have just one more opportunity to test themselves before the squad announcement for next summer's festivities, making each friendly vital.
Now that Hodgson has addressed an issue much of the English press has been happy to keep alive, the national team can finally get back to preparation for a challenging year.