IRISH international Glenn Whelan is at the centre of an internal investigation at Premier League club Stoke City after a pig's head was placed in the locker of team-mate Kenwyne Jones.
Jones is understood to have reacted angrily to the prank after finding the bloody carcass – and threw a brick through the windscreen of the Dubliner's car.
However, it remained unclear whether 29-year-old Whelan was actually the culprit in bringing the pig's head into the dressing room or if he was merely caught up in the bizarre incident. It has overshadowed preparations for Stoke's final game of the season against Southampton tomorrow.
The Stoke authorities were forced to issue a statement on the matter after news filtered out through social media channels.
American winger Brek Shea posted a picture of himself with the animal's head on Instagram, adding that it was "locker room banter gone wild".
However, Jones's girlfriend, Kissa Abdullah, was furious and made her displeasure clear on Twitter. She said: "Big men acting like kids, a pig's head is not a prank it's just disgusting. I don't get how that was supposed to be funny."
She later added that the act was offensive to her and Jones's religious beliefs. The prank would be considered highly disrespectful by the Muslim community.
Some Stoke players are believed to be bemused by Jones's dramatic reaction, and a source described it as "banter that went a bit too far".
But chief executive Tony Scholes is taking it seriously. He is leading an inquiry into the incident and is expected to meet players including Whelan and Shea to discuss the matter.
A statement from Stoke said: "The club takes seriously reports of an incident at our training ground this afternoon. 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."
Stoke have been in silly season mode since they produced the necessary run of good results to avoid relegation. The pig's head appears to be part of a pranking culture, the culmination of a series of reports that have emerged over the final weeks of the campaign.
Last week Michael Owen's car was covered in eggs and flour, with the former England international – who is retiring at the end of the campaign – taking the act in good spirits. He mentioned Whelan, who earns around £30,000 (€35,000) a week, as a potential suspect on Twitter.
Whelan is a strong character and a popular member of the dressing room at Stoke, and is highly regarded by manager Tony Pulis. A source said the majority of the dressing room viewed it as a joke.
Pullis told the BBC: "We have a smashing dressing room, and there are four or five lads who are always up to something. There is always banter. I honestly don't know what's gone on this morning, I've missed all of what's happened. I try to stay away from the home dressing room as much as I possibly can, I let the lads get on with it.
"We will look at it tomorrow. I will have a chat with the lads and find out exactly what has happened."