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FA gives Hodgson full backing
The Football Association has given Roy Hodgson its full backing after the England manager was forced to apologise for a joke he made about a monkey in space.
Hodgson made the quip at half-time during Tuesday's 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Poland, which was intended to convey the need for England to play the ball more to winger Andros Townsend.
The word 'monkey' can in certain contexts have racist connotations and Lord Ouseley, chairman of anti-racism campaign group Kick It Out, has called on the FA to investigate.
FA chairman Greg Dyke said in a statement: "Roy Hodgson is a man of the highest integrity, an honourable man who is doing a great job with the England team. He has and deserves the full support of The Football Association.
"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.
"He has made clear there was no intent to say anything inappropriate, and he was certainly not making any comments with any racist connotation. Importantly, he has apologised for any unintended offence that may have been taken.
"Roy has spoken with Andros Townsend and a number of the players since the game and he has been assured there are no problems within the squad whatsoever.
"Additionally The FA has not had a complaint from any squad member or player representative, and we have today talked extensively to the squad.
"The FA has been assured by the players that there are no problems and they understand the point Roy was making and the context in which he was speaking.
"We will be making no further comment on this story and will now be giving Roy and the team our full support as we prepare for the World Cup in Brazil."
Hodgson was quick to apologise, saying in a statement: "I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time.
"There was absolutely no intention on my part to say anything inappropriate. I made this clear straight away to Andros in the dressing room.
"I also spoke to Andros again on Wednesday. He has assured me and the FA he did not take any offence, and understood the point I was making in the manner I intended."
Townsend, who was making only his second appearance for England, insisted he was not offended and could not understand why the story had generated so much coverage.
The Tottenham player said on Twitter: "I don't know what all this fuss is about. No offence was meant and none was taken! It's not even news worthy!"
Kick It Out, which employs Townsend's father Troy as its mentoring manager, took a different stance.
It said in a statement: "Kick It Out, football's equality and inclusion campaign, recognises and shares the concerns of the parties who felt mindful to bring the comments into the public domain.
"The matter has been raised by the chair, Lord Herman Ouseley, directly with the Football Association, who acknowledges the apology made by Roy Hodgson, and now seeks an investigation to ascertain the full facts and ensure a similar situation does not arise again."
The joke is one that became popular in US space agency NASA in the 1960s and 1970s after it sent monkeys into space before humans.
One version of the joke is that the first time NASA sends a man up into space a monkey goes with him and does all the skilled technical jobs inside the rocket. Finally the astronaut gets frustrated and radios NASA to ask what he should do.
NASA replies: "Don't touch anything - just feed the monkey."
It is believed Hodgson was trying to illustrate the need for England's defenders to play the ball early to Townsend while he was in space on the flanks.
Piara Powar, executive director of European anti-discrimination group FARE, said the England manager should be more careful.
He said on Twitter: "Hodgson used a very silly term within a diverse team environment. He should know better."
England striker Wayne Rooney insists Hodgson did "nothing wrong" and that the incident had been blown out of all proportion.
He tweeted: "Seen the story on roy this morning. He done nothing wrong. This is ridiculous."
Former England striker Stan Collymore said the row undermined efforts to tackle racism in football.
He tweeted: "Demeans every anti racism campaigner by having cheap pop at RH who said NOTHING WRONG. Makes campaigners seem over PC & petty. They're not."
Norwich boss Chris Hughton, one of the few black managers in English professional football, disagreed with Collymore.
Although he accepted Hodgson meant no offence, Hughton believes the fact the joke has caused a fuss shows how much progress has been made.
He said: "It's a good thing, the fact that there are things now that are making the press that a good few years ago wouldn't have done.
"That means there are far more people that are more conscious now. We have made great strides over the years and to maintain that it means everybody's got to continue working that bit harder.
"It is a good thing that everybody's more conscious now about what is being said and people's actions."
The FA has been sensitive to any allegations of racism after John Terry was stripped of the England captaincy and later banned for four matches for racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand.