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Hodgson issues apology, backed by the FA

ESPN staff
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Townsend defends Hodgson

Roy Hodgson has issued an apology for using language which could be considered offensive towards Andros Townsend during his half-time team talk in England's 2-0 win over Poland, while the FA has said he has their full support.

Hodgson told an old joke related to the space race during the 1960s and 1970s to urge his players to get the ball to Townsend, who had been terrorising the Polish defence.

The England coach used the joke's punchline, "feed the monkey", to get his point across, reported by both The Sun and The Daily Mirror. The joke has no racial connotations, but relates instead to when monkeys were sent into space by NASA, in the context that the monkey in the shuttle is the more important than the human astronaut.

Townsend took to Twitter on Thursday morning to play down the incident, clearing Hodgson of any wrongdoing.

The two papers report the joke differently, with The Daily Mirror publishing:

"NASA decided they'd finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions. "They fire the man and the monkey into space. "The intercom crackles, 'Monkey, 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 radioes NASA, 'When do I get to do something?' "NASA replies, 'In 15 minutes - feed the monkey'."

It is alleged that at least one player was upset at the use of the phrase, which has led Hodgson to say sorry and insist no offence was meant.

"I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time," 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."

Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out have demanded an FA investigation into the comments.

A statement released by Kick It Out chairman Lord Herman Ouseley on Thursday morning said the organisation "recognises and shares the concerns of the parties who felt mindful to bring the comments into the public domain," and "seeks an investigation to ascertain the full facts and ensure a similar situation does not arise again."

Wayne Rooney and Manchester United coach Phil Neville leapt to Hodgson's defence on Twitter.

FA chairman Greg Dyke meanwhile said in a statement: "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 FA.

"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 it 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."

On the back of the FA supporting Hodgson, Kick It Out said: "Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign, is pleased that the FA 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."

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