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Hodgson 'done with' Townsend space monkey row

ESPN staff
November 7, 2013 « Hart still England's No.1 - Hodgson | Chartbeat test »
Andros Townsend scored on his debut for England against Montenegro © Getty Images
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England manager Roy Hodgson has spoken publicly for the first time about the Andros Townsend 'space monkey' row which erupted after last month's World Cup qualifier against Poland.

In his half-time team talk, Hodgson referenced an old NASA joke to tell his players to "feed the monkey", suggesting they give the ball to in-form Tottenham winger Townsend at every opportunity.

The joke was leaked by a member of the England set-up and appeared as a front page story in a major national newspaper, with some suggesting the comments were racially motivated. And Hodgson has admitted the incident frustrated him.

"I'm not happy it happened. It was an innocent remark that was totally misconstrued," stated Hodgson. "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.

"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."

Hodgson insisted he trusted his players implicitly despite the embarrassment caused by the leak of information and was keen to promote the positives after his team came through two tense final qualifiers to reach next summer's World Cup finals.

Focusing his attention on upcoming internationals against Chile and Poland, he admitted he faces a tough balancing act in his team selections with just three matches to play before he names his squad for next summer's World Cup finals.

"It's the first time I've had a chance to speak since we qualified, to put on record how pleased I have been with the efforts over the last four games," he added. "We dealt with a lot of pressure. We needed some wins to finish top of the group and we did that. We were ably backed up by the fans at Wembley who pulled out all the stops in the last two games.

"Now we are looking forward to Brazil. These two matches are important as I only have three games before I name a squad for Brazil and this preparation period is very important.

"We are looking to balance giving players a chance to show what they can do while at the same time keeping together a group of players that need to play together, practice together. That is the equation I will be wrestling with and trying to find a solution for."

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