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Saturday, May 12, 2012
Coming home to roost

Jon Carter

Off the Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories. This week, it's a chance to showcase all the chicken puns in history with Blackburn's relegation and Paul Hunt's self-implosion; Swansea turn to Elvis; Paolo Di Canio proves he did not give up a singing career to play football; Cardiff won't go blue; a moonwalking defender; and Manchester United's ghastly gingham gets a battering.

Chickens come home to roost

'Venky's: Good For You' is the slogan that ends the 30-second advert in which David Dunn showcased his acting 'skills' and Ryan Nelsen - no longer at Ewood - showed he could lick his fingers. But after their team's relegation to the Championship was confirmed this week - complete with chickens on the pitch and burned season tickets - Blackburn fans could be forgiven for thinking that Indian chicken magnates Venky's were anything but good for Rovers. Off the Ball had a cheeky fiver on Rovers dropping down the hatch when the inexperienced Steve Kean was plucked from obscurity, and put all its eggs in one basket when Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba flew the nest. However, there was some rather amusing fowl play this week from deputy chief executive officer Paul Hunt, whose leaked letter did a rather nice job of highlighting what a coop-lete (sorry) mess Venky's have done. You can read the full letter here, but in Off the Ball's opinion you don't really need to go beyond point No. 1, which rather boldly suggests that the focus should be on promoting Hunt and giving him a pay-rise. Venky's took a rather different approach, though, and sacked him the next day. We bet they gave him a right roasting.

Return of the King

If you are an Elvis Presley impersonator in Wales this week, you'd better own your own suit. That's because Swansea fans have been asked by manager Brendan Rodgers to stage a tribute to 'The King' at their final game of the season at home against Liverpool. "I will be asking all the fans if they can wear as many Elvis Presley costumes as we can because when we got promoted the bookies said there was more chance of seeing Elvis Presley than us staying at this level," Rodgers stated. "As a show of our achievement we'll ask for them to do that." Currently lying in 12th place, the impressive Swans have a lot to celebrate as many wrote them off before the season began, but they have been coined the 'Barcelona of the Premier League' thanks to their brand of attacking tiki-taka football. Not quite what has been on show at Anfield under 'King' Kenny Dalglish this season but football's royalty may well be overshadowed by music's this weekend anyway.

Stick to the day job, Paolo

Having published a fairly exhaustive profile of current Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio, ESPN thought it had seen it all from the Italian. But this week proved that the controversial former striker is still capable of pulling a few surprises as he showed the power of his lungs (without screaming at officials). Winning the League Two title and earning promotion to League One in just his first season managing the club has earned Di Canio the respect of Robins fans across the globe but, at their promotion party concert at the County Ground, he may have lost it. With band Toploader performing their biggest hit, Dancing In The Moonlight, the 43-year-old made his way onto the stage to sing over the chorus. The result was not quite the same as that famous volley against Wimbledon and may persuade those in charge at Swindon that they should have a quiet night in if they seal promotion again next season.

Whoever heard of a Blue Dragon?

Cardiff were forced to scale back plans this week to change the club's badge and home colours following strong opposition from supporters. The club's Malaysian owners were understood to be considering switching City's home strip from its traditional blue to red and incorporating the Welsh national symbol of a red dragon into the crest. Indeed, it seems chairman Dato' Chan Tien wanted the "symbolic fusion of Welsh and Asian cultures" in a bid to give the club "the best chance of competing at the higher reaches of competition". But, after Cardiff's 5-0 demolition against West Ham in their Championship play-off semi-final, the fans spat fire and any hopes of a rebrand were quickly called off. Change may soon be blowing into Wales though, as Tien insisted: "As romantic and simplistic a notion as it may seem, maintaining our current course without growth or change is not, and cannot be, an option.'' Perhaps they should call in one of the businessmen from Dragons' Den to help out. Video of the week Sport Recife defender Tobi is clearly a bit of a mover and shaker. When asked to turn and display his number to receive a yellow card for crashing through the back of Santa Cruz striker Flavio, the defender duly obliged by channelling the spirit of Michael Jackson and moonwalking towards the ref. .

More than words...


Manchester United's new home shirt was released on Friday and the design is meant to be a nod to the cotton industry of 1878 when the club was formed. It carries the slogan 'Forged in Industry, Made of Manchester' but fans have compared the ghastly gingham to a tablecloth. Not even United can make that look good. ©Manchester United

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