Football: Hodgson backs players' `racism' denial

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The Independent Online
ROY HODGSON, the Blackburn Rovers manager, defended his players yesterday against allegations of anti-Semitism levelled by the West Ham midfielder Eyal Berkovitch.

Hodgson is angry about the furore caused by the Israeli's claims, backed by his manager, Harry Redknapp, that there were racist jibes in the recent FA Cup tie between the two sides. Kevin Gallacher, sent off following an altercation with Berkovitch, denied any involvement on Monday.

"I didn't hear anything and I was close to Harry Redknapp in the dug- outs," Hodgson said in the run-up to tonight's replay. "If he heard it, he heard it. I am not suggesting he didn't. This is a storm in a teacup. It disappoints me to talk about it. It disappoints me that people think it is a subject of attention. It disappoints me as an intelligent person to discuss it. As far as I'm concerned this is a football match. The racist talk is ridiculous. I'm not interested in that.

"In a match between two Premier League sides there will be situations where things get heated. The referee was in charge and we did not have words in that respect. He will take care of things that may or may not have occurred."

The Football Association confirmed last night that the referee, Peter Jones, did not mention any abuse in his report.

Both Gallacher and Blackburn are still aggrieved that his red card offence has not been changed on appeal and it emerged that Jones has not even been allowed to view the incident on tape.

Hodgson said: "The real controversy is that Gallacher was sent off, not what people are alleged to have said. That is stupid nonsense. We are losing Gallacher for three games for an offence that he did not commit. We are still angry at that injustice, but we can do nothing about it.

"The referee has had nothing to do with it. We think the referee is the man who should decided on our appeal.

"We think when he sees the video and reflects that there was no elbow involved or no deliberate intent to hit the player that would change things entirely.

"Only the referee can make that decision and we hope he can be given that chance. Kevin patently did not elbow Berkovitch in the face and patently did not mean to do it."

Gallacher is upset that he has been singled out while several other similar clashes have gone unpunished recently. Hodgson said: "Kevin has told me of five incidents he has seen recently where no action was taken. There is no uniformity."