Roy Hodgson: Andros Townsend says joke was a compliment

Andros Townsend has described Roy Hodgson's comment that prompted a race row as a "compliment".

England boss Hodgson was criticised for referring to a joke about a monkey and an astronaut at half-time in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Poland.

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You would have to go a long way to find somebody who is less racist than me

Roy Hodgson

Hodgson was trying to encourage right-back Chris Smalling to pass to Townsend, 22, more often.

"The manager just told the players to give the ball to me so that's a compliment," said the Tottenham winger.

"Everyone should be focusing on England qualifying for Brazil - not on negative silly news."

The joke, the exact wording of which is still unclear, revolves around an astronaut and a monkey on a space mission. The monkey performs all the tasks requested by mission control, with the punchline being that the astronaut's only role is to feed the monkey.

Hodgson added: "I admit that some of the younger players may not have understood the reference to the monkey in space. They may not have heard the expression before but that's a generational thing.

"I meant 'give the ball to the player who can make things happen'. There was no other connotation, and no offence was taken by any of the players.

"You would have to go a long way to find somebody who is less racist than me. I have coached almost everywhere in the last 37 years, worked with all kinds of people, so this intimation of racism - you can hardly call it a story - is so saddening."

The incident came during Townsend's second game for England, after he had scored on his debut in the 4-1 win over Montenegro.

Premier League reaction

The players are the best judges. So when they come out, and the kid involved in the situation [Andros Townsend] comes out and supports the manager, there's no story - Jose Mourinho

One thing for sure, Roy Hodgson is not a racist - David Moyes

You have to be very careful about what you say - Arsene Wenger

"It's a dream come true to play for your country," said Townsend, who was speaking to BBC Sport news correspondent Natalie Pirks at a Spurs event to highlight breast cancer awareness. 

"I had the perfect debut really, scoring a goal and getting man of the match, but I couldn't let it get to me or get big-headed as we had to concentrate on the next game.

"It's only now after the games are done that I've realised how big it was for the country."

Hodgson said on Friday that he and the players were angry that the race row had overshadowed England's achievement in qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil next year.

"Joy is short-lived in this job," he told the Daily Mail.  "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."

Former Southampton and England forward Matthew Le Tissier says he is disturbed that there is somebody in the dressing room that Hodgson cannot trust.

"That's not a great thing to have," Le Tissier told BBC Sport.

Analysis

"Greg Dyke's unequivocal backing for England manager Roy Hodgson should draw a line under one of football's most bizarre controversies. But it doesn't mean the story is without significance.

"For all the supportive tweets of Wayne Rooney and Andros Townsend - the player said to be the subject of Hodgson's monkey gaffe - the very fact this story made it into the public domain tells you this England team is not as united and solid as the FA and the manager would have us believe.

"That perception may be slightly harder for Hodgson to shake off as he prepares for next summer's World Cup in Brazil."

"If the player is offended then pull Roy to one side and be a man about it. Roy is the type of guy who will have gone 'I didn't really mean any offence and I apologise'.

"That would have been the end of the matter."

Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out had called for the Football Association to investigate the comments, but it considered the matter closed on Thursday after the governing body released a statement in support of Hodgson.

"Roy Hodgson is a man of the highest integrity, an honourable man who is doing a great job with the England team," said FA chairman Greg Dyke.

"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."

However, another campaign group has sent a formal complaint to the FA in which it calls for an independent investigation into the issue.

In the four-page complaint, Race for Sport, an off-shoot of the Society for Black Lawyers, says the decision to consider the matter closed is "unacceptable". It also demands "cultural intelligence" training for Hodgson and all football managers.

England striker Wayne Rooney showed his support for 66-year-old Hodgson on Twitter   and via his personal website.  "To try and pin some form of label on him is absolutely ridiculous," he said.

"Roy spoke to Andros straight away and he took no offence whatsoever. Hopefully that's now the end of the matter."