England manager, Roy Hodgson, may have landed in hot soup over a joke he reportedly cracked while having a routine half time chat with his players that may have racial connotations.
The joke, which Hodgson is believed to have told in full, is one that was popular at American space agency NASA.
“NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions,” the joke goes.
“They fire the man and the monkey into space.
“The intercom crackles, ‘Monkey, fire the retros.’
“A little later, ‘Monkey, check the solid fuel supply.’
“Later still, “Monkey, check the life support systems for the man.’
“The astronaut takes umbrage and radioes NASA, ‘When do I get to do something?’
“NASA replies, ‘In 15 minutes – feed the monkey.’”
Hodgson claims he was trying to use the joke to emphasise to the England team that Townsend, who was having another brilliant game, held the key to victory.
It is, however, believed at one least one player was shocked, because he thought it carried racist connotations.
Both Hodgson and the FA are mortified that what they insist is a horrible misunderstanding has become an issue.
“I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time,” he said.
“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 and his father, Troy – who works for the anti-racist Kick It Out organisation – are not thought to have been angered by the remarks, but could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.
The joke in itself is said to be harmless but in the racially charged environment that professional football in Europe has become could be insensitive.
Hodgson an urbane, enlightened man, may now be regretting using the wrong analogy.