Sport Soccer

Sunday 19 November 2017

Almost twenty years on from his first London assault, Eric Cantona is back in the headlines

Eric Cantona
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

As the saying goes, old habits die hard and closing in on the 20th anniversary of one of the most infamous assaults in English football, Eric Cantona is back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The word ‘character’ doesn’t do justice to the complex man that is Eric Cantona.

One of the most distinguishable players in Premier League history – he inspired a generation to wear their collar up – mystery, admiration and bewilderment has accompanied the Frenchman throughout his career, which makes these latest developments well down the shock-factor scale.

The incident which led to Cantona’s arrest yesterday aren’t very clear as of yet.

We know the incident took place mid-afternoon in the trendy Primrose Hill area and the victim did not need medical attention.

The surroundings couldn’t be further removed from the hostile environment of Selhurst Park, London on January 25th 1995.

That night Cantona ensured his legacy would be remembered for exploits off the pitch as much as on it when he launched himself into the crowd when a Palace supporter had some choice words following his red card.

The king-fu kick and subsequent flurry of punches earned the player an assault charge, resulting in a prison sentence, which was reduced to community service.

Man United suspended the eccentric Frenchman for the final four months of the season and fined him £20,000.

The FA duly topped this up to an eight-month suspension and added on another £10,000 for his troubles.

The incident was arguably the biggest of the Premier League’s relatively short existence, only overshadowed by his goal-scoring return against arch rivals Liverpool the following October.

The end of his international career, his decision to leave Leeds for their Manchester rivals, his departure from United and subsequent decision to take up acting have merely added to the intrigue surrounding Marseilles native.

And that is even before discussing his brilliance on the field of play.

A maverick on the pitch as well as off it, we will wait in earnest to see if he can possibly outdo his famous quote to the media following the suspension in 1995.

“When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” he said darkly before striding out of the press conference.

It didn't necessarily make sense, but it was highly entertaining and unique. Fitting in light of his entire football career.

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