Hodgson Tries to Put England Monkey Joke Behind Him

Roy Hodgson has publicly exonerated himself from any wrongdoing after stating that any of the England players who were offended or taken aback by his “feed the monkey” line about Andros Townsend “misconstrued” his words.

On his first public appearance since the controversy about his half-time instructions during the win against Poland that sealed England’s place at the World Cup, Hodgson insisted he was not concerned that the story had apparently been leaked by one of his players and said “the atmosphere in the dressing room, in training and in matches, is outstanding”.

The England manager declined to answer when asked to corroborate the original explanation about him telling an elongated joke about a space monkey. The Football Association had briefed that the joke was told in full only for it to emerge that he had used only the punchline, as a way of telling Chris Smalling to get the ball to Townsend more quickly. “I’m not prepared to discuss it,” Hodgson said.

The different accounts have led to accusations of a cover-up, a feeling shared by some prominent anti-racism campaigners, but Hodgson maintains that what he said was perfectly appropriate.

“It’s difficult to regret innocent remarks but I’ve apologised if such an innocent remark could have caused any offence. If you’re asking me if I’m happy it’s happened, I’d have to be honest and say: ‘No, I’m not.’ But it was an innocent remark that was totally misconstrued and been talked about. For me, it’s over and we move on. I’ve no wish to think about it any more. I don’t want the achievement of the players, getting us to the World Cup, tarnished any more.”

Hodgson was asked whether the episode would make him more cautious about his management style, especially now the code of the dressing room, specifically to keep everything in-house, had been broken.

“It should make me cautious but it’s always going to be very difficult when they are innocent remarks that you cannot possibly imagine will be construed as they were,” he said. “I would like to think it makes me aware of the need to be cautious. But whether or not you can always eliminate everything from your vocabulary is another matter.

“It makes you more aware of the focus of being England manager. The thing I was most aware about, which really pleased me, was that it’s a focus and a responsibility that means so much to so many people. And if you’re fortunate enough to achieve your goal – our initial goal being to qualify – it’s quite a nice feeling to know that so many people are happy for you.

“What comes with that is this extra focus and attention. It behoves us all – not just me as a national manager but all our top Premiership managers – to be very careful. But it’s very difficult to change your way of working, your way of being, and your personality overnight. To change from someone who has always approached the job as I have and become that taciturn, one-word answer person, I don’t know how you do that. You would have to change you personality and character completely. So that is the gamut I suppose I will be running.”

Hodgson interrupted a question that referred to one of his players apparently being offended. “We don’t know that,” he said. We don’t know that. I have to take that on face value, what was written and said … I don’t have to believe it. I don’t know [who leaked it] and furthermore, as far as I’m concerned, it’s well and truly closed and I wouldn’t dream of trying to find out. I’m happy that I don’t know. I trust the players. I’ve rarely worked with a club side where the spirit or feeling was better than here.”Hodgson was speaking after naming a 28-man squad for the Wembley friendlies against Chile and Germany, with Jay Rodriguez earning a first call-up and his Southampton team-mate Adam Lallana also recalled, along with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson.

Fraser Forster or John Ruddy will start in goal against Chile but Joe Hart will return against Germany and Hodgson made it clear that the Manchester City goalkeeper is still his first choice despite losing his club place.
England squad to play Chile and Germany

Goalkeepers Forster Celtic, Hart Man City, Ruddy Norwich

Defenders Baines Everton, Cahill, Cole both Chelsea, Gibbs Arsenal, Jagielka Everton, G Johnson Liverpool, Jones, Smalling both Man Utd, Walker Tottenham

Midfielders Barkley Everton, Carrick, Cleverley both Man Utd, Gerrard, Henderson both Liverpool, Lallana Southampton, Lampard Chelsea, Milner Man City, Townsend Tottenham, Wilshere Arsenal

Fowards Defoe Tottenham, Lambert, Rodriguez both So’ton, Rooney Man Utd, Sturridge Liverpool, Welbeck Man Utd


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