A Different Week – Jackson statue too off the wall for Fulham fans, plus Joey Barton being Joey Barton

Bobby Moore, George Cohen, Alan Mullery, Bobby Robson – there are a number of former Fulham greats who probably deserve a small plaque on a wall somewhere in recognition of their years of loyal service, so perhaps one can appreciate why a number of Fulham fans were rather perturbed last weekend when club owner Mohammed Al Fayed decided to unveil a Michael Jackson statue at Craven Cottage.

Al Fayed, who was a personal friend of Jackson, responded well to the criticism of the Cottagers fans, telling them they could “go to hell.” Al Fayed originally commissioned the statue to stand outside Harrods, following the singer’s death in June 2009, but after selling the Knightsbridge store, decided to switch the venue to Fulham’s home of 115 years. “Why is it bizarre? Football fans love it,” Al Fayed declared after the statue was unveiled before Sunday’s game against Blackpool.

Well, not all football fans Mo. “We’re a laughing stock. It has nothing to do with football,” said one fan, whilst another admitted “It makes the club look silly. I thought it was an April Fool’s joke.” The lack of support for his bizarre tribute clearly rattled Al Fayed, who responded: “If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell.I don’t want them to be fans. If they don’t understand and don’t believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else.

The only tenuous link between Fulham and MJ is his appearance at a game against Wigan Athletic back in 1999, as a guest of Al Fayed. However, Chairman Mo insisted that Jacko’s love of the Cottagers went well beyond that, claiming “He loved Fulham and he wanted to attend all of the matches.” Defender Brede Hangeland, possibly in a valiant attempt to justify the Jacko tribute, said: “Some of our players are Michael Jackson fans, some aren’t…his music has been on in the dressing room a couple of times. I’m sure we won when his music was played!

Far more popular amongst football fans will no doubt be the statue of World Cup cult hero Paul the Octopus, which was unveiled at his aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany. Paul shot to fame after correctly ‘predicting’ results at the 2010 World Cup Finals, but tragically passed away in October of the same year. The very tasteful tribute, part of a new exhibition in the Octopus Garden at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre, shows a large recreation of Paul with his tentacles hanging over a football patterned with flags of the participating countries.

In other news, Joey Barton has been a little quiet of late, so it was always only going to be a matter of time before he stuck his head over the parapet with some outrageous outburst and sure enough, he did just that this week, declaring, among other things, that recent England captain Gareth Barry is rubbish and a teacher’s pet and that the Three Lions will not win the World Cup for the next 50 years, before rather modestly declaring himself the best English midfielder around. “Honestly, I think I’m England’s best midfielder,” he told a French football magazine, perhaps in the knowledge he would get laughed at if he said that to an English publication.

Jack Wilshere isn’t bad, but Frank Lampard is on the way down and Steven Gerrard’s been injured a lot,” Barton continued. On Barry, Barton suggested the Manchester City player’s success was simply down to him having “a very good agent” and also because “he always agrees with the manager. He’s like the guy who sits in the front row and listens to the teacher.

However, if Barton does indeed have designs on Barry’s place in the England side, he’d better hope that future international tournaments are not held anywhere with particularly strict immigration laws, as this week has seen him – when he was not courting the French media – trying to convince American immigration officials that he is not a danger to the public before he can join Newcastle United on this summer’s pre-season tour of the U.S. Barton, who served 74 days in prison in 2008 for assault and affray in an attack on a teenager in Liverpool and was also handed a four-month suspended sentence for ABH on former Manchester City teammate Ousmane Dabo, will have to undergo an interview at the US Embassy in London to gain a visa for the Magpie’s trip scheduled for July.

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