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'Fat b*stard' Bruce lays off the pies

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, Steve Bruce vows to go on a diet to avoid "fat b*stard" chants, Robbie Fowler rubs in Australia's Ashes woes, John Terry is voted the most hated man in football and why Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano.

Fowler urns notoriety in Australia

Perth Glory striker Robbie Fowler may have lost the cutting edge that made him a Liverpool legend but the Scouser has lost none of his cheek and was all too eager to highlight Australia's Ashes woes prior to an A-League match at Gold Coast United.

With the England cricket team retaining the coveted Ashes, Fowler, a friend of former England Test captain Michael Vaughan, pulled out a replica of the Ashes urn, proudly holding it aloft and kissing it in front of the Queensland crowd at Skilled Park.

Englishman Fowler, who attended Tests at the Gabba and Perth, said: "It's not every day we get the chance to retain the Ashes in Australia so it was just a little reminder to show everyone where they are going to remain for the next two years at least.

"I've really enjoyed being in Australia for the series and I have to confess my Australian team-mates are really quiet again. To be honest, you wouldn't know the final test is on in Sydney because my team-mates have not said a word about the cricket since Boxing Day."

Bruce goes on diet to avoid "fat bastard" chants

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, who turned 50 at the turn of the year, has made a New Year's resolution to stop eating pork pies and drinking beer from his fridge so that rival fans will stop calling him a "fat bastard."

"I'm going to lose some weight if I can, stay out of the pub!" Bruce said. "It's when I'm under pressure, when I open the fridge - beers, pork pies ... anything. I do like a pork pie with a can of beer. Pork sandwiches with a bit of mustard. Marvellous. With mustard, peas pudding and crackling and all that. Mmmmmm.

"But I can't have any more pork pies - I'm sick of being called a fat b*stard wherever I go, so that's my New Year's Resolution: not to be called Fat Head. I don't go on the scales anymore, I am that frightened."

Congratulations must go to Bruce for deciding to slim down but, surely when his new, svelte figure graces the touchline, the fans will simply substitute the word "fat" for something equally derogatory.

Terry: the most hated man in football

Mr Football, John 'The Warrior' Terry, added yet another piece of silverware to his vast collection this week but, unfortunately for Chelsea's fallen idol, this particular gong was awarded for being voted the most hated man in football.

Terry, who was already largely disliked outside of Stamford Bridge, took his unpopularity to new heights in 2010 following allegations he had slept with the mother of his best friend's child and was then sacked as England captain after his reported deeds alienated hapless victim Wayne Bridge and split football into two camps.

Terry breezed to a comprehensive victory in caughtoffside's internet poll, even beating the likes of World Cup 2018 and 2022 saboteur Sepp Blatter.

The final top ten was as follows: 1. John Terry (3171 votes), 2. Sepp Blatter (2695), 3. Mario Balotelli (2569), 4. Cristiano Ronaldo (1992), 5. Wayne Rooney (1048), 6. Jose Mourinho (706 votes), 7. Luis Suarez (605), 8. Mike Ashley (523), 9. Robbie Savage (186), 10. Mauricio Espinosa - the blind official who failed to award England's goal against Germany - (60).

Player transfer listed after Twitter rant

What is it with footballers and their inability to grasp that airing their views on Twitter, rather than in an interview for instance, does not make them miraculously impervious to the ramifications of controversial comments?

Aldershot's Marvin Morgan is the latest victim, unable to resist the song of social network sirens, telling the club's boo-boys "I hope you all die" after being jeered off the pitch when substituted during the club's 2-1 defeat to Hereford.

"Like to thank the fans who booed me off the pitch. Where's that going to get you! I hope you all die," he Tweeted.

The League Two club responded to that little outburst by suspending the "foolish" striker, fining him two weeks' wages and placing him on transfer list.

Captain Blade says: Don't mess with the Duck

When Preston North End mascot Deepdale Duck was escorted from the pitch against Derby, following claims he was putting off the visitors' goalkeeper Stephen Bywater, little did the authorities suspect they would have a furry revolution on their hands.

Sheffield United's aptly named mascot Captain Blade made his bid to lead the Mascots' Liberation Front by staging a half-time protest in support of his exiled colleague.

Holding a hand-written sign saying 'Free the Preston One', Captain Blade refused to leave the centre of the pitch at half time during Sheffield United's South Yorkshire derby with Doncaster and delayed the start of the second-half.

Negotiations for the reinstatement of the Preston mascot continue. A spokesperson told the BBC: "We're still not quite sure why Deepdale Duck was escorted off but he'll be back."

Video of the week

What with his breathtaking football skills, his string of beautiful girlfriends and his enormous wage packet, there isn't really much to like about Cristiano Ronaldo. But credit where credit is due. The wax-chested one has now scored 60 goals in his first 61 games for Real Madrid, setting some sort of record that puts Bernabeu legends Ferenc Puskas (55 goals) and Alfredo Di Stefano (52) in the shade. To celebrate/commiserate, here are ten of CRon's best goals ESPN Video.

More than words...

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti realises it's all going wrong ©Getty Images

Around the web

• Avram Grant reveals his lucky scarf is behind West Ham's revival

• David Bentley's wife launches foul-mouthed rant at Harry Redknapp

• Sir Alex Ferguson reveals agents' outrageous demands to United

• Ronaldinho gets the Studs Up treatment


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