Hundreds of Fulham FC fans have voiced their dismay after learning that a statue of troubled superstar Michael Jackson is to be unveiled at Craven Cottage.
Club chairman Mohamed Al Fayed last week stunned supporters by announcing that a memorial to the late singer, who was a close personal friend, will be revealed before the match against Blackpool on April 3.
More than 400 people have now signed an online petition opposing the Jacko monument, arguing that it would 'devalue the honour' of legendary Fulham player and former England captain Johnny Haynes, the only other person ever awarded the same privilege.
The petition authors said they welcomed the vital investment and support which Mr Al Fayed had given their club, but urged him to rethink the move.
"It is a firmly held belief that this kind of memorial statue is not appropriate within the walls of our ground, and would urge the chairman to re-consider his plans to erect the memorial at Craven Cottage." they said.
Those sentiments were echoed across the Atlantic by Steve Malbasa, secretary of American supporters' club FulhamUSA, who said: "The people who loved Michael Jackson and would turn a blind eye to the freak show that he always had as part of his life are generally not sports fans. When I read about it, I was dismayed."
More than 170 people also signed a separate petition on the club's official website, with some posting critical comments. Several were later removed, prompting further objections, although a club spokeswoman said only those posts which were libellous or offensive had been taken down, and that it welcomed a 'healthy debate' about the statue.
One fan wrote: "I keep hoping that this is a premature, and embarrassing, April fool's joke."
Another supporter using the name Logicman, striking a more pragmatic tone, said: "The place this statue appears is not as prominent as some people might believe, and if it was a straight choice between keeping the statue or losing Mohamed Al Fayed's backing, I know which side I would fall on."
The memorial was originally due to be erected outside Harrods but was moved to Craven Cottage after Mr Al Fayed decided to put the department store up for sale.
It will be the second time a statue of Jacko has overlooked the Thames, after the singer floated another down the river in 1995 to promote his HIStory album.
Explaining his decision, Mr Al Fayed said: "Michael Jackson was truly a legend, a term used too often in this modern world saturated in the hyperbole surrounding celebrity.
"He was my friend, a man with whom I shared many happy memories and who died a tragic and untimely death. He left behind a legacy of music so vast it takes one's breath away, from a precocious talent to an ingenuity and ground breaking modernity that shall never be repeated."
The chairman added that he hoped fans of the singer would visit Craven Cottage 'from far and wide' and that Fulham fans 'will appreciate seeing the finest performer in the world, in and amongst them, the finest fans in the world'.
The statue will be unveiled at 12pm on April 3.