Andros Townsend: Hodgson in space monkey race row
England manager apologises after bizarre row over half-time astronaut joke
ENGLISH football's capacity to shoot itself in the foot was illustrated once again in the aftermath of the team's qualification for the Brazil World Cup, as manager Roy Hodgson was forced to apologise after becoming embroiled in a "bizarre" race row involving Andros Townsend and a joke about "space monkeys" – even though the player has insisted he was not offended.
Despite Townsend's protestations it seems that no narrative involving the national team is complete without at least one race controversy, and the latest takes some beating.
The Times reports that the problem erupted up when Hodgson decided to tell a worn-out joke dating back to the 1960s during half time of the game against Poland. Deep in the bowels of Wembley stadium with the nation's hopes of World Cup qualification hanging in the balance, Hodgson geed up his troops with a longwinded gag about an astronaut who is sent into space with a monkey.
When the astronaut asks what his job is, Nasa tells him that he is there only to feed the monkey.
"It is understood that the manager's intention was to encourage Chris Smalling, the right back, to pass more often to Andros Townsend, the right winger who seemed to have the beating of the visiting defenders," says the Times by way of explanation.
As if that wasn't strange enough, the paper adds: "It is believed that one unnamed player may have taken offence because he thought that the joke carried racial connotations."
The Daily Telegraph takes up the tale and says Hodgson is "mortified by that interpretation and regards it is a big misunderstanding".
The manager admitted as much last night when he said: "I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time." But he also insisted that Townsend understood his point, and was not put out by the joke.
Townsend, the player at the centre of the furore, today tried to calm the situation and backed his manager by insisting that no offence had been taken. But he revealed his lack of experience as an international footballer by expressing surprise that the media had made a mountain out of a molehill:
I don't know what all this fuss is about. No offence was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy!
— andros townsend (@andros_townsend) October 17, 2013
But even Wayne Rooney seemed taken aback. He too weighed into the row, describing the situation as "ridiculous".
Seen the story on roy this morning. He done nothing wrong. This is ridiculous.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) October 17, 2013