21 years since Cantona’s kung-fu kick

Standing up to scumbags

Let’s get something clear from the start. I think Eric Cantona was dead right to kick Matthew Simmons in the chest and I’m only sorry he didn’t get over the barrier and kick him some more because Simmons was a scumbag who deserved every bit of the kicking he got from the volatile and hugely-talented Frenchman.

How do I know Simmons was a scumbag? Simple. At the subsequent court hearing where he was found guilty of threatening behaviour, Simmons jumped over a table and attacked the prosecuting counsel, but luckily for him Eric Cantona wasn’t present. He just had to deal with ordinary policemen.

eric cantona matthew simmons manchester united crystal palace

Cantona was right to attack the horrible little scumbag, who scurried down from his ninth-row seat to hurl abuse at the player and he was right for many reasons. There was too much of that going on and nobody was doing anything about it.

So yes. I’m on Eric’s side. I was on his side then and I’m still on his side. Let’s leave it in no doubt.

Unlike many Irish people, however, I’m not a fervent supporter of any UK club, except our little group’s fun-filled adventures following Scunthorpe United, but that’s a story for another day. I’m not a true believer, but I’ll never forget the day I watched that game on TV, and that’s for many reasons.

Manchester had just bought Andy Cole from Newcastle (cue all the jokes) for huge money. I think it was £9 million plus a Keith Gillespie swap. Cole, in theory a striker, was terrible that season while at the same time Cantona, who cost only £2 million, was magnificent in midfield and scored most of United’s goals. It was all useful ammunition for torturing my Man Utd friends, but I was never an ABU since I’ve always regarded such attitudes as deeply anti-sport and that’s why I found myself watching the United-Palace game in my neighbour’s house. We’d watch anything.

Cantona’s red card for a questionable foul perhaps wasn’t a huge surprise, given the bite-yer-ankles attention he was getting from Richard Shaw. Niggled beyond his trigger-point, when Cantona finally lashed out at Shaw, nobody was surprised. Job done. United were down to ten men. Result.

The problem came with the walk of shame as Eric made his way to the tunnel and had to walk past the Palace supporters, including Simmons who deliberately ran to the edge of the pitch in order to fling abuse.

Cantona wasn’t having it, and launched himself over the barrier, making a very satisfying impact on the ratbag. Not long after that, you could buy a t-shirt with two footprints on the chest. I bought one.

You might think I’m wrong in defending Eric Cantona for this action. Some people think he was a disgrace to his club and a disgrace to soccer, but I felt at the time he was standing up for all decent people in sport when the authorities were failing to deal with lowlifes who were dragging it down. And I think history has been much kinder to Eric Cantona than it has been to Matthew Simmons.

He won’t be shouting abuse at any player any time soon.

The game was a 1-1 draw, incidentally.



15 thoughts on “21 years since Cantona’s kung-fu kick

  1. It was a good game and many heinekens went down that evening.
    The 21 years stopped me up though!

  2. At that time I was an ABU and 25th January was (and is) my birthday so I was out having a few sociable pints and watching the game when it happened. As an ABU, it was a lovely present.

  3. Do you know I just noticed that Cole’s from Newcastle thingey…….21 years on.

    The same boy had a stinker of a first season alright but Man U got their money’s worth in the end. And Keith Gillespie continued his upward progression and ended up at Longford Town a couple of seasons ago.

  4. You’d have to say the runt, morally, deserved a kick, but it was unprofessional of Cantona.

    Maybe the below summed it up.

    “Few sportsmen have fallen so low by jumping so high,” wrote the great Hugh McIlvanney, who once observed that boxer Joe Bugner had the physique of a Greek statue but with fewer moves!

    Some claim Cantona was the greatest United player. They need to book an appointment with Specsavers.

    McIlvanney when Best netted.

    “Best had come in along the goal line from the corner-flag in a blur of intricate deception. Having briskly embarrassed three or four challengers, he drove the ball high into the net with a fierce simplicity that made spectators wonder if the acuteness of the angle had been an optical illusion.

    “What was the time of that goal?” asked a young reporter in the press box. “Never mind the time, son,” said an older voice beside him. “Just write down the date.”

  5. He came first in one United poll of greatest of all time and second in the below behind Giggs in 2011.

    Neither wouldn’t lace Best’s drinks, never mind his boots.

    2011 United Poll

    1) Ryan Giggs
    2) Eric Cantona
    3) George Best
    4) Sir Bobby Charlton
    5) Cristiano Ronaldo
    6) Paul Scholes
    7) David Beckham
    8) Roy Keane
    9) Peter Schmeichel
    10) Wayne Rooney

    My own

    1) Best
    2) Edwards (Busby babe)
    3) Charlton
    4) Law
    5) Ronaldo, a petulant pup granted
    6) Keane
    7) Beckham
    8) Schmeichel
    9) McGrath
    10) Scholes

  6. When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.

    united poll – top 4

    Louis Van Gall
    The trawler

    Cantona kick could never be replicated – no, not because of harsher rules
    – because players can only kick or pass sideways now .

  7. What is really the point of this post? Is it to satisfy our inner craving that every scumbag deserves a hiding and that it is OK for a football player to deliver it in front of thousands of kids who will think that is acceptable behaviour because it is carried out by a sporting hero, where would we be as a society if we could meet out our own justice to anyone who has wronged us? Don’t worry I’m no bleeding heart liberal and have meted out my own share of “justice” in my time but never in public.

    Or is just a rant about football in which case I don’t see the point of the Cantana reference.

  8. The opportunity to express one’s views is always welcome, I was just trying to figure out the logic of the thread which seems confusing to me

  9. more of a man to ignore it and let his football do the talking, but Cantona was odd to say the least, “When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” yeah Eric, right

  10. I think he was referring to reporters/paparazzi Gerry.
    It was a bit silly considering he was banned for what, 9 months for that one karate kick? He probably would have been banned for the same amount of time if he bate him to a pulp.. wasted opportunity in that sense.

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