The Roy Hodgson ‘joke’ – what the hell is going on here?

by Will Cullen

John Terry with Roy HodgsonMany of you will be waking up this morning, depending on where in the world you are, and reading the story about Roy Hodgson’s half time joke about a space monkey.  So to recap, Roy made a joke about a space monkey that was intended to illustrate the idea that he wanted right-back, Chris Smalling, to play the ball to Andros Townsend, who was destroying the Polish defence.

The joke Roy told is a popular American joke in NASA and goes something like this:

NASA decided they’d finally send a man up in a capsule after sending only monkeys in the earlier missions.

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 radios NASA, “When do I get to do something?”

NASA replies, “In 15 minutes – feed the monkey”.

What Roy was trying to do was use the joke to explain to the England team that Townsend, who was playing brilliantly, held the key to an England win. Now, he could have just said that Townsend was important, give him the ball and we will win. But he didn’t. He tried to use a joke to ease the pressure on his team and that joke has now turned into yet another racial incident in football. This places a massive dampener on the England team, especially after two massive and important results. One player in the squad was supposedly offended by Roy’s joke and one can presume this player is the person who leaked the silly incident to the paper.

Respected journalist and personal favourite of mine, Oliver Holt, wrote in his article in the Mirror this morning “The joke is insensitive, perhaps, in the current highly charged racial climate in football”. The key word here is perhaps. Depends how sensitive you are I guess.  I think we are becoming a little hyper -sensitive. To put it into context, Roy didn’t do a Ron Atkinson. He didn’t look Townsend in the eye and call him a derogatory racial name did he. He didn’t throw a banana at him or use the N word. Mark Bright said on Twitter “why use the term “Feed the Monkey” with right black players in the room”. Every monkey or ape reference is not a racial comment Mark.

Ok, Roy could have used a better analogy to emphasise the importance of Townsend and getting him the ball. I don’t know Roy at all, but he has worked with many black players all over the world. He is an elegant, well-educated and articulate man. I’m sure well all know Roy is not a racist and just to point out, Oliver Holt’s article is not suggesting he is. So why has this made the papers then? If Roy isn’t a racist and we all know he isn’t, then what’s the big deal. Townsend didn’t take any offence to the joke. He didn’t complain. He didn’t go to the papers and leak the story. His dad, who works for the Kick It Out campaign, hasn’t complained either. So what’s the fuss about?

This mystery player is believed to be offended by the JOKE and felt it has racial connotations. As I said, Roy could have used a better analogy than the space monkey one but seriously, has it come to this. Are we struggling that much for news or sport content to publish a story like this? Will the words monkey, ape or chimp be soon banned from football.  There is a racist comment like Ron Atkinson’s and then there is a joke. There is the Suarez and Evra incident and then there is Roy’s joke. The difference is plain to see.  Stan Collymore, one of the most sensitive guys in football, summed it up in this tweet last night saying “Racism is hard enough to keep on the agenda as it is without making everyone think legitimate space joke should be cause for offence”. Well done Stan, a man of Afro-Caribbean decent, who knows all too well what racism is about.

Roy issued an apology stating that he had spoken to Townsend and the player was fine. He apologised if his joke caused anyone any offence. I’m sure he knows he could have used a better analogy but the unfortunate thing is this joke will over-shadow the remarkable achievement of qualifying for the World Cup and finishing top of the group. It was a bad joke. Not a racist comment. Two very different things. To be honest I even feel ashamed writing an article about this nonsensical tripe. How this made it into a newspaper is beyond me.  Why didn’t the player just reveal himself and say he was offended? I’ll tell you why, because if he did reveal himself and told the world he was offended by Roy’s joke, he would be ridiculed. So instead he hides behind a news story.

Some of you may say “Who are you or we to define what offends other people”.  But if this player feels so strongly about it then he should have approached the manager and spoken to him, rather than run off and leak it to the press. Oliver Holt was just doing his job by informing the public. Oliver isn’t to blame. Roy isn’t to blame. No one is to blame. Hopefully after a good night’s sleep, this offended mystery player will see what a joke this incident has become.

Can we get back to football please?

40 Responses

  1. david says:


    The amount of words that will soon be deemed as offensive, will soon out weigh some peoples vocabulary. Often the people who are offended by such nonsense.

    The language Roy used itself is not offensive unless there was intent.
    And has someone really suggested during a halftime team talk for a world cup qualifier infront of his team and staff, Hodgson intended to isolate a star player with a racist comment?…

    I feel ashamed for even typing all that..

  2. John Harvey says:

    He used a monkey analogy for a black player which I don’t think he would have used for a white player.

  3. s4styloSteve says:

    FFS! Get a life………. it was a JOKE!

  4. Mr Malark says:

    Of course he would’ve used it for a white player. Unless you’re specifically suggesting Roy Hodgson is racist? In which case, just come out and say it. Then we can look at whether there’s any basis to your allegation.

    Otherwise it’s just mealy-mouthed nonsense.

  5. david says:

    John Harvey

    Can you not see the irony in your comment?
    This is your prejudice.

    Im white, I am, you are, as related to to an ape as any (un)coloured person. Why should he not talk about monkeys?

  6. AS56 says:

    It’s pathetic stories of this nature that have a negative effect on racism and only serve to satisfy narcissistic journalists.

  7. David GEnis says:

    Good article but one point; it’s African-Caribbean. An Afro is a hair style

  8. TommyHarmer says:

    three things …….

    there were no monkeys in the dressing room, only England players and staff

    what is said in the dressing room stays in the dressing room

    the person who leaked this rather than discussed it should apologise or go

  9. richie says:

    Dear God, we can’t mention a species in front of black people! Its getting complicated now, can’t we just forget about colour and religion and just carry on picking on the Belgians?

  10. Dan Mac says:

    put better, and less aggressively than the reply I was writing… decided for safety sake it was better to state my agreement to your comment than reply with my own!

  11. Dan Mac says:

    spot on

  12. Edd says:

    Lee Evans, one of our best and most successful comedians ever often refers to himself as ‘Monkey boy’. He is white. I am white, my best mate is white and I often call him the same thing. My son (also white) is often referred to as a ‘Little Monkey’.

    Seriously are we now fast approaching the stage where we won’t even be allowed to call Monkeys monkeys? This is a non-story for me and the player that was supposedly ‘offended’ by this is nothing more than an attention seeker who needs to grow up and stop playing the race card everytime someone mentions any words that might have some distant to link to an offensive term. God help him if he ever takes his family to a zoo and has a tour. If they get to the primate enclosure he’ll have a fit! Pathetic that this is even being talked about really.

  13. MikeC says:

    I say………let Lord Oulsen have his way and get the FA to have a full investigation – that way we get to find out who this ‘sensitive’ player is………….then we can all see him when he visits our grounds and ‘congratulate’ him on his dedication to the ’cause’. I’m sure that when we do find out, he will be welcomed back into the England fold as a dedicated player and no-one will ever bear any grudges against him, or let him know our feelings.

  14. Eric says:

    I think the problem here is the intelligence level of your average footballer. This leads to the inability to understand and so you have a misunderstanding. So the only thing left is to find out who the thicko who didn’t understand was(i mean other than john harvey). I’m sure Roy will be keeping it simple from now on.

  15. Gerry says:

    “Could of, would of, should have”. Shall we just rename this species of animal and eradicate its former name from our minds, will that appease people? Please understand, those that constantly search for ‘prejudice’ rarely fail to find it!

  16. Iain says:

    This is a ridiculous story and frankly does not do either the play who apparently felt “offended” by a joke that has NO racial overtones at all, his agent who “leaked” the story, nor the journalist that choose to make something off it, any favours at all. They all look like idiots.

  17. Dave says:

    Who even said ‘the monkey’ was brown?? The joke doesn’t say “feed the brown monkey”… Just a typical example of a victim culture that segregates society and loses sight of ‘One Nation’… Next thing you know, England shirts will stop being white because it shows favouritism towards white people. It’s all pathetic!!!

  18. Flair says:

    The problem is Jermaine Defoe thinks he is far better then he actually is.

    Because if you go through tuesday’s squad, his the very obvious leak. His got form for blowing things like this out of proportion.

    Simple fact is that the monkey was Andros. He was not offended. The comment is therefore not offensive.

    You cant be offended by something not directed at you, because if you are no-one can ever talk again because someone will always find something offensive.

    The real issue is why to certain black people feel that any reference to a monkey is in relation to them.

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