A training ground bust-up involving a prank-gone-wrong with a pig’s head has overshadowed the build-up to Stoke’s final home game of the season.
For manager Tony Pulis, it is an unwanted troubled end to what has been a tough second half to the campaign in which Stoke have found themselves battling relegation.
With the pressure off going into tomorrow’s closing Premier League match with Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium, Pulis’ players have clearly decided to let off some steam these past few days.
Striker Michael Owen, who hangs up his professional boots after the clash with the Saints, found his top-of-the-range Mercedes pelted with eggs and flour earlier this week as his leaving present.
Yesterday Trinidad and Tobago international Kenwyne Jones was the target at the club’s Clayton Wood training ground when he discovered a pig’s head in his locker. Jones is believed to have reacted furiously to the incident.
It seems the incident went beyond mere banter, however, with reports suggesting the windscreen of midfielder Glenn Whelan was smashed in the wake of the grizzly discovery.
When put to him by a Twitter follower that he had been responsible for the damage, Jones replied: “For your info I didn’t do that get ur info correct.”
Whatever the circumstances, Stoke have launched an internal probe and are determined to punish those responsible.A City statement read: “The club takes seriously reports of an incident at our training ground.
“A full internal investigation will be carried out and those responsible for any unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with in accordance with the club’s disciplinary procedures.”
Jones’ partner, Kissa Abdullah, expressed her anger at the incident via her Twitter account, suggesting religious insensitivities.
She wrote: “It just takes a minute to be sensitive to someone’s beliefs no one says u can’t have a sense of humour but let it be a joke! This wasn’t!”
The matter is not the way Pulis will have wanted the season to end, with his team in sight of a top-half-of-the-table finish for the first time since promoted in 2008.
A win over Southampton combined with defeat for West Ham at home to Reading, or even if the Hammers draw and Stoke win by two clear goals, will see City claim 10th.
Pulis is again likely to be without Whelan, who continues to struggle with a groin injury that has sidelined him for the last two matches.
Fellow midfielder Charlie Adam is definitely out as he serves a one-game ban for his dismissal in Sunday’s home defeat to Spurs.
Owen, meanwhile, has been promised a more fitting farewell by Pulis than the one he received from his team-mates.
Despite playing just 130 minutes over eight appearances since joining Stoke last September, Pulis was full of praise for the former England forward.
“He has been fantastic around the place. He has been a really, really good lad,” Pulis said.
“He’s not had the playing time he’s wanted, and I know he has been disappointed with that.
“But he’s been good around the place, very supportive of the players who have enjoyed his company, and there will be a send off for him at Southampton for what has been an absolutely wonderful career.”