Space monkey row: Hodgson vs the hysterical offence-takers
'Joy is short-lived in this job,' says manager as England come back to earth with a bump
IT COULD only happen in England, a country that grows more absurd - or should that be frightening - by the day. First we had Robbie Fowler pilloried for describing as 'girls' the squabbling Fernando Torres and Jan Vertonghen; then we had ITV Presenter Adrian Chiles in the stocks for making a lazy quip over Polish builders and now Roy Hodgson has just discovered that it really doesn't do to have a sense of humour in 21st Century Britain.
In truth very few people were actually offended when news leaked of his 'space monkey' joke during England's half-time team talk on Tuesday. There was the odd twerp on Twitter with nothing better to do with their time, and the anti-racist Kick it Out campaign group worked itself into a lather.
The organisation issued a statement in the wake of the furore, one that dripped with a sense of their own sense of self-importance. "Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign, recognises and shares the concerns of the parties who felt mindful to bring the comments into the public domain. The matter has been raised by the Chair, Lord Herman Ouseley, directly with The Football Association (FA), who acknowledges the apology made by Roy Hodgson, and now seeks an investigation to ascertain the full facts and ensure a similar situation does not arise again."
Kick it Out, a force for good in the game most of the time, soon realised on this occasion it had scored a spectacular own goal. While not finding within itself the good grace to issue an apology of its own, to Roy Hodgson, a decent man whose integrity it impugned, Kick it Out soon released another statement: "If there has been no complaint on the back of the investigation then the matter can only be deemed as concluded."
No complaints but thousands of messages of support for the England manager, from players, pundits, the public, the Football Association and anti-racist campaigners themselves. The Guardian reports that Troy Townsend, father of Andros, who works for Kick It Out as its mentoring manager, "insists he was not offended and cannot understand why it has generated so much coverage".
FA Chairman Greg Dyke has thrown his full weight behind Hodgson, calling him "an honourable man who is doing a great job with the England team. He has and deserves the full support of the Football Association". Nonetheless Dyke did add that "Importantly, he has apologised for any unintended offence that may have been taken".
That was Hodgson's biggest error, to have lain himself open to an ambush by Britain's small army of hysterical offence-takers, a determined bunch always ready to fight the preposterous fight. Though he's escaped from the melee intact, he's clearly been scarred by the experience.
"Joy is short-lived in this job," he said on Thursday night. "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."
Writing in today's Daily Mail, former England player turned pundit Jamie Redknapp adds his support to Hodgson but tells him in future just keep his team talks 'simple'. And cut out the jokes.
We may have found a decent football team but as a nation we lost our sense of humour a long time ago. ·