Andros Townsend has tried to end the controversy over Roy Hodgson’s joke by insisting the England manager was trying to pay him “a compliment”.
Hodgson used a joke about Nasa sending a monkey and a human into space to illustrate the need for England players to give Tottenham winger Townsend the ball when he was in space during the match against Poland.
The leaking of the joke has sparked a row culminating in a letter of complaint from a pressure group being sent to the Football Association demanding that Hodgson attend a ‘race appreciation’ training course.
Townsend, who last night signed a new four-year contract with Spurs, told BBC Sport, however: “It has all been said now, it has been in the news the last few days and I think everyone should focus on us qualifying for Brazil and not focusing on negative, silly news. The manager told the player to give the ball to me, so that is a compliment in a way.”
Hodgson, who apologised if any offence was caused, has expressed his frustration and anger that his side’s achievement in reaching the World Cup earlier this week has been overshadowed.
Peter Herbert, the head of the Society of Black Lawyers and who runs the new Race For Sport organisation, yesterday sent a four-page letter of complaint to the FA, saying it was wrong to declare the matter closed.
The letter from Herbert to FA chairman Greg Dyke states: “To announce that the matter is ‘closed’ without any action being taken against the England manager is unacceptable and wholly inconsistent with your policies on equality and diversity.”
Hodgson believes the quip has put a spoiler on England’s achievements in the past few days and he has received backing from Townsend and Wayne Rooney. Hodgson told a national newspaper: “Joy is short-lived in this job. The players are as angry about this as I am.
“We have just had a successful period and, although I wouldn’t suggest we intend to rest on our laurels, I think we have earned the right to enjoy the fruits of our labours. Instead we get this.”
Lord Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, had initially called for the FA to investigate but the anti-racism campaign group accepted the matter was now concluded following a statement from Dyke that confirmed no complaint had been made and none of the players were unhappy with Hodgson’s words.
Rooney described the accusations of racism against Hodgson as “absolutely ridiculous”.
Speaking to his website, the striker said: “It’s really annoying that something such as this should see the light of day. All the lads know what type of guy Roy is, and to try and pin some form of label on him is absolutely ridiculous.”