Outside the Box: Police must think outside the ox to solve pink-paint mystery

With a large whisky and a blast of Wagner, Oxford's most celebrated detective, Inspector Morse, would doubtless have wrapped up the case at the same time as knocking off the Times crossword.

Alas, the great man is no longer with us to solve the mystery of the pink-painted statue that is bewildering Thames Valley police. A £25,000 ox sculpture, which has stood outside Oxford United's Kassam Stadium since 2008, was last weekend covered in pink paint, with the words "Gotta love art" and "RIP" daubed on its marble plinth.

A police spokesman admitted to Outside the (B)ox that there has been little progress in the investigation: "We are studying CCTV footage and appealing for witnesses."

Football-related vandalism has also been ruled out and one former director said: "It could have been worse. We could have had someone travelling up from Swindon and painting it red and white." Best not to put ideas into their heads. The club have decided to respond by passing round the bucket at their next two home games in order to raise funds for the Abingdon-based charity Against Breast Cancer.

Ref is United's lucky omen

London-based Liverpool supporters returning to Euston Station after last Saturday's game at Wolverhampton were surprised to see the Stoke City coach disgorging players for the 90-minute return journey to the Potteries after a 2-0 defeat at Fulham.

But clubs are increasingly preferring to let the train take the strain. Arsenal chartered one for a swift return from their recent FA Cup replay at Leeds and Manchester United's superstars are regularly to be found waiting on platforms at Macclesfield or Stockport hoping there are no delays on the Virgin service to London. Once they get there, United are doubtless delighted whenever they find that the referee is Peter Walton.

After last Tuesday's 3-2 win at Blackpool, when the home team were furious at having a penalty claim refused for Rafael's clumsy challenge on Luke Varney, Walton has apparently now been in charge of 18 United games – and they have lost none.

Bent's gone for a song

Just as well for the supposedly traitorous Darren Bent that his new club, Aston Villa, have already played his old one, Sunderland, twice this season (the Wearsiders winning both games 1-0, as it happened).

He might just have found that his former supporters had changed their tune, and their words, from those he quoted with such pride in this season's Kick It Out magazine: "They sing a song about me being fast as lightning and dynamite, which is pretty cool."

More Spurs v West Ham

On the other hand, the fixture list still has a spicy little game between Tottenham and West Ham inked in for Saturday 19 March, just around the time that the Government and the Mayor of London are due to have a final say on who takes over the Olympic Stadium after 2012.

As a Chelsea fan suggested on Twitter last week, perhaps the winners should take all.

England friendly will be turn-off

Sky Sports will broadcast the Spurs-West Ham game live, assuming they find a new co-commentator for the evergreen Martin Tyler.

Rivals ESPN have set an interesting precedent by allowing viewers to choose which match is shown on Wednesday week: a poll at www.espn.co.uk/tv offers the choice of France against Brazil or Germany against Italy. Both of which, it may be felt, present a tempting alternative to ITV's coverage the same night of the friendly between Denmark and England.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue

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