Roy Hodgson has been assured there is no discontent within his squad after details of a joke he told in the England dressing room found their way into the media.
The Football Association has given England manager Hodgson its full backing over the quip about a monkey in space, which he made at half-time during the 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Poland on Tuesday.
Hodgson told the joke to illustrate why his players should give the ball to winger Andros Townsend but was forced to apologise after claims it was racist. It is not clear how part of the manager’s team talk came to be in the press, but FA chairman Greg Dyke revealed in a statement that no complaint had been made and none of the players was unhappy with Hodgson’s words.
Lord Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, had called for the FA to investigate, but the anti-racism campaign group accepted the matter was now concluded.
Dyke said: “Roy Hodgson is a man of the highest integrity, an honourable man who is doing a great job with the England team. He has and deserves the full support of The Football Association. He has fully explained to us what he said and the point he was making to the players in the dressing room at half-time on Tuesday night. He has also explained the context in which he made his remarks.
“He has made clear there was no intent to say anything inappropriate, and he was certainly not making any comments with any racist connotation. Importantly, he has apologised for any unintended offence that may have been taken. Roy has spoken with Andros Townsend and a number of the players since the game and he has been assured there are no problems within the squad whatsoever. Additionally The FA has not had a complaint from any squad member or player representative, and we have today talked extensively to the squad. The FA has been assured by the players that there are no problems and they understand the point Roy was making and the context in which he was speaking. We will be making no further comment on this story and will now be giving Roy and the team our full support as we prepare for the World Cup in Brazil.”
In response, Kick It Out said: “Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion campaign, is pleased that The Football Association has investigated this matter swiftly and issued its findings immediately. If there has been no complaint on the back of the investigation then the matter can only be deemed as concluded. Kick It Out acts on behalf of the football community at large and when an allegation of a racist or discriminatory nature is made, it’s the organisation’s role to follow this up.”
Hodgson quickly apologised for any offence he might have caused and received plenty of support, including from Tottenham winger Townsend.
Hodgson said: “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.”
Townsend, whose father Troy is the mentoring manager for Kick It Out, wrote on Twitter: “I don’t know what all this fuss is about. No offence was meant and none was taken! It’s not even news worthy!”
The joke is one that became popular in US space agency NASA in the 1960s and 1970s after it sent monkeys into space before humans. One version of the joke is that the first time NASA sends a man up into space a monkey goes with him and does all the skilled technical jobs inside the rocket. Finally the astronaut gets frustrated and radios NASA to ask what he should do. NASA replies: “Don’t touch anything – just feed the monkey.”
It is believed Hodgson was trying to illustrate the need for England’s defenders to play the ball early to Townsend while he was in space on the flanks.
Piara Powar, executive director of European anti-discrimination group FARE, said the England manager should be more careful. He said on Twitter: “Hodgson used a very silly term within a diverse team environment. He should know better.”
England striker Wayne Rooney backed Hodgson with a tweet that said: “Seen the story on roy this morning. He done nothing wrong. This is ridiculous.”
Former England striker Stan Collymore said the row undermined efforts to tackle racism in football. He tweeted: “Demeans every anti racism campaigner by having cheap pop at RH who said NOTHING WRONG. Makes campaigners seem over PC & petty. They’re not.” Norwich boss Chris Hughton, one of the few black managers in English professional football, disagreed with Collymore.
He said: “It’s a good thing, the fact that there are things now that are making the press that a good few years ago wouldn’t have done. That means there are far more people that are more conscious now.”
The FA has been sensitive to any allegations of racism after John Terry was stripped of the England captaincy and later banned for four matches for racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand.