England manager Roy Hodgson has been left angry by reports surrounding his half-time joke against Poland on Tuesday.
Hodgson apologised on Thursday for any offence caused by the anecdote told in the dressing room during the interval of the FIFA World Cup qualifier at Wembley, with the joke centring around sending an astronaut and a monkey into space.
The 66-year-old apparently made the comments as part of a team-talk designed at encouraging his players to pass to winger Andros Townsend, but the remarks have caused widespread controversy amid links made in the British press to possible racial connotations.
That is something that the England boss has strongly refuted, with Townsend himself and striker Wayne Rooney having already come out publicly in support of their manager.
And Hodgson admits that he has been angered by the reporting of the issue, along with his players, at a time when he believes the nation should be celebrating qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“Joy is short-lived in this job. The players are as angry about this as I am,” he told The Daily Mail.
“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.
“I admit that some of the younger players may not have understood the reference to the monkey in space. They may not have heard the expression before but that’s a generational thing.
“I meant ‘Give the ball to the player who can make things happen’. There was no other connotation, and no offence was taken by any of the players.
“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 so saddening.”
Hodgson has received support from a number of his players, with Townsend tweeting his backing before Rooney added that it was “annoying” to see the story surface.
“All the lads know what type of guy Roy is and to try and pin some form of label on him is absolutely ridiculous,” he told his official website.
“Roy spoke to Andros straight away who took no offence whatsoever, hopefully that’s now the end of the matter.”