Roy Hodgson tries to get monkey off his back

English football’s enduring capacity to shoot itself in the foot shows no sign of abating. No sooner had the national team ushered in some long overdue ‘feel good’ factor, than coach Roy Hodgson was forced to defend himself against some wild accusations that he used a racist remark during his half-time team talk in the 2-0 victory over Poland.

Hodgson was criticised for referring to a joke about a monkey and an astronaut, which was deemed by one person present to be racially loaded term.

“Joy is short-lived in this job,” Hodgson told the Daily Mail on Friday.

“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.

“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 saddening.”

Hodgson was reported to have made the joke when trying to explain to right-back Chris Smalling that he needed to pass the ball to winger Andros Townsend more.

The joke revolves around an astronaut and a monkey on a Nasa 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. Now, that may seem a convoluted way of getting a point across, but only a simpleton would interpret the remark as being racist.

Certainly not Townsend, who tweeted: “I don’t know what all this fuss is about. No offence was meant and none was taken!”

Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out called for the FA to investigate the comments, but considered the matter closed 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.”

England striker Wayne Rooney also 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.

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

It should be, although the identity of the person who leaked the episode to the press, remains a puzzle. Equally bewildering is why this person, who was happy to speak to a journalist about the incident, kept his counsel when questioned about it by the FA.