England manager Roy Hodgson has apologised after he referred to winger Andros Townsend as a "monkey" at half-time of the World Cup qualifying win over Poland.
Hodgson jokingly implored right-back Chris Smalling to "feed the monkey" - referring to the impressive Townsend - when offering instructions with England 1-0 ahead.
It is reported at least one player found the remark offensive due to its potentially racial connotations and Hodgson is mortified at how it has been interpreted.
Townsend impressed on the wing again for England versus Poland
"I would like to apologise if any offence has been caused by what I said at half-time," Hodgson 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."
The supposed relevance stems from a popular Nasa joke about sending a monkey into space.
The joke goes:
"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’."
Demeans every anti racism campaigner by having cheap pop at RH who said NOTHING WRONG. Makes campaigners seem over PC & petty. They're not.
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) October 16, 2013
Seen the story on roy this morning. He done nothing wrong. This is ridiculous.
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) October 17, 2013
A racist, example of: someone who thinks that the word 'monkey' automatically refers to a non-white person. To be pitied, not hated.
— Philippe Auclair (@PhilippeAuclair) October 16, 2013
"Hodgson, we have a problem."
— Jay (@Jay_in_Essex) October 17, 2013
Townsend was man of the match and scored on his England debut in the 4-1 win over Montenegro last week and impressed against Poland on Tuesday, cracking a shot against Wojciech Szczęsny's crossbar.
Racism in English football has been a prominent topic in recent seasons. Luis Suárez and former England captain John Terry were both fined and suspended for racially abusing opponents in the last two years.