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.

Diego Maradona wants Rafa Benitez’s job at Napoli

Diego Maradona has admitted he wants to make a return to management and has set his sights on one day coaching Napoli.

Maradona is currently working here in the UAE as a global Ambassador of the Dubai Sports Council – a position he has held since September 2012. By his standards, that kind of tenure merits a medal for long service.

Prior to his current role, Maradona’s most recent managerial position was at Arabian Gulf League club Al Wasl, where the 52-year-old spent an eventful 2011-12 season in charge before being fired. .

Maradona enjoys legendary status among Napoli fans, in part because he led the club to their only league titles in 1987 and 1990, but mainly because such success was achieved whilst he was consuming vast amounts of cocaine on a nightly basis.

“When Benitez leaves I would like to take over at Napoli,” said Maradona, who claimed he was currently unemployed as a coach because people fear him.

“Coaches are changing all over the place, from Spain to Italy, England to Russia. But there are people who are afraid of me. That’s why I’m not coaching.”

And not because of your unending record of coaching failure?

It is hard to imagine there will be a club owner brave or foolhardy enough to employ Maradona as a coach. But, in a world where Mark Hughes remains in gainful employment, anything is possible.

Goal of the Day

Carlos Rivero scores a wonderful goal with the outside of his foot to equalise for Deportivo Tachira against Atletico Venezuela

Jose Mourinho offers to help England

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has offered his assistance to the Football Association’s newly-established commission.

The Portuguese is willing to discuss the long-term future of the England team with FA chairman Greg Dyke and offer his opinions of England’s prospect at Brazil 2014.

He told The Sun: “If they want to speak with me I will give them my opinion.

“If you concentrate on the here and now – not on the future in three or four years’ time – on the group of players at Roy Hodgson’s disposal to play at the World Cup, then England have more than enough.

“A World Cup without England is not a World Cup. They are one of the big football countries and even if at one moment the team is not at a high level, England always have to be in a World Cup.”

Although, the 1994 World Cup, the last one England failed to reach, was, by common consensus, the best of the last 20 years. Anyone who has seen England drag their tired limbs through a succession of international tournaments, would hardly bemoan their absence.

Mourinho admitted he was happy to see England reach the finals without the indignity of qualifying via the play-offs..

“I didn’t celebrate on Tuesday by jumping up and down or drinking because that’s not in my nature but inside I was happy,” the 50-year-old added.

“Part of me was also happy my Chelsea players won’t have the pressure of the playoffs in November and can play two friendlies instead, rather than worrying about Brazil.

“England deserved to qualify and the tournament will be better for having them there.

“With the pressure of the last two matches which they had to win, they coped well.”

Quote of the Day

“Gareth Bale doesn’t play for Tottenham, he now plays for one of our rivals”.

Asked about Real Madrid’s costly summer acquistion. Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gaxidis cannot resist taking a swipe at rivals Tottenham.

Italy to freeze Diego Maradona assets in pursuit of €39m tax debt

Italy’s tax collection agency says it has informed  Diego Maradona that it will begin procedures to freeze his assets in Italy to pay off his tax debt of 39 million euros.

Equitalia confirmed news reports saying its agents had served Maradona with the notification in his Milan hotel room, and that he signed the documentation. The Argentine great was in Italy to promote a video series on his life and watch his old club Napoli play Roma on Friday.

Maradona’s Italian debts stem from alleged unpaid taxes during the time he played for Napoli from 1984-91, when he helped the club win its only two Serie A titles. Earlier today, he announced he would one like to return to the club as coach.

In previous visits to Italy, tax police have confiscated two Rolex watches and a diamond earring from Maradona.

A source at the Equitalia tax recovery agency said the move was simply formal procedure since the papers only have a 180-day validity and therefore have to be renewed whenever Maradona is in Italy.

A relief for Maradona, but the Napoli job just might have to wait for the time being.