LONDON (AFP) - England manager Roy Hodgson said Wednesday he had apologised to captain Wayne Rooney regarding his casual comment about the Liverpool accent, saying the last thing he meant to do was cause any offence given his wife is also from the north-west city.
Last week's squad announcement for this week's Euro 2016 qualifiers with San Marino and Estonia saw Hodgson - much-mocked for his difficulty in saying the letter 'r' correctly - suggest Merseyside-born Manchester United striker Rooney would not be able to lecture a room full of people because of his "Liverpool accent".
Hodgson took issue with the manner in which a throwaway comment became a backpage headline in Britain's national press, although he was in a mood to play down the incident at a news conference on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's clash with San Marino at Wembley.
"I have to be very careful when talking about accents and the way people speak," Hodgson said with a laugh. "It took years for me to realise I had a speech defect, but it was made very clear to me when I took the job that I had one."
"I have been aware of it ever since so I am the last person to discuss accents," he added." "Fortunately, I have got a guy alongside me (Rooney) who has been with me for a long time and he knows that in no way was it aimed at home or anyone from Liverpool.
"My wife is from Liverpool so that is the last thing I would be doing.
"I have actually apologised to him for the headline, but he was so gracious that he didn't even want the apology."
England, who opened their Group E campaign with a 2-0 win away to Switzerland last month, are widely expected to thrash a San Marino side who are 208th in FIFA's world rankings - joint-bottom with Bhutan.
San Marino have conceded 26 goals in their last four meetings with England and lost 5-0 on their last visit to Wembley, a World Cup qualifier in 2012.
But Hodgson tried to lower expectations by saying Wednesday: "We've played San Marino before and other teams like San Marino and as the years go by they do get better and better at getting some sort of results, at least in terms of not losing that heavily.
"We were lucky to beat them heavily once in our last game (an 8-0 away win in March 2013) but I've got to say at no time in my talks with the players have we mentioned goals," he said.
"I am telling the truth when I say it is all about performance, building on what I think was good in the last two games, making certain that we don't slip at all from those standards. Then the opponent is the opponent.
"We're not trying to play anything down, but we are not trying to suggest this will be a goal fest. It might, but it might not be because these games are difficult."
Meanwhile Rooney was equally pragmatic when asked about the chances of closing in on Bobby Charlton's all-time record of 49 England goals.
Rooney is currently three behind Jimmy Greaves's mark of 44 goals - scored in just 57 England appearances compared to Rooney's 41 in 97 - and eight adrift of United great Charlton's international tally.
"Jimmy Greaves is there and if I can overtake him this week, in the coming weeks, the coming months (then) that would be great," said Rooney.
"It's not something going into the game (I'm) thinking: 'Oh, I've got to beat Jimmy Greaves' record to get close to Bobby Charlton'."