21 years since Cantona’s kung-fu kick

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.




Messi Shines Out Like a Beacon in a Drab FIFA Landscape

They don’t miss a beat do they, namely Ski Sports as Dustin calls it.  Just 48 hours after it was confirmed that there will be no English team in the last four of the Champions League for the first time in seven years, Ski are back into overdrive, selling some Godawful game to the public that no one, not even the parents of the players involved, has any interest in.

In fact, a lot of the players involved have no interest in it either. As was pointed out in an article by a former pro recently, some players find being picked for their team actually interferes with their plans for the weekend.

The sight of their name included in the squad, particularly for an away match, is greeted with dismay and has them running to the doctor for a sick note.

Meantime, in  the myopic World of Ski Sports, United’s defeat to the remarkably average but resilient Bayern Munich and Arsenal’s capitulation to Barcelona are mere inconvenient truths.

They look at the scores, blink once and then go back to the hype and bullshit.

Chelsea, who were also dumped out of the Champions League, United and Arsenal occupy the three top  spots in England’s top flight.  So how can Ski Sports keep referring to the Premier League as the top league in the world?

Easy really. You just keep saying it and enough craven fools will believe you.

Meantime, lets get the idle speculation out of the way.

Liverpool have denied that they have offered Barcelona the entire Beatles back catalogue – and the John Lennon Airport with the brilliant cast of Shameless thrown in –  for their mercurial striker Lionel Messi.

The little Argentinean had the hacks dusting down the clichés on Tuesday after he went on a four goal rampage – including a first half hat-trick – against Arsenal at the Nou Camp.

Even Arse boss Arse Wenger, who is doing a lot of passable imitations of Basil Fawly these days, admitted that Messi was brilliant.

In the end the hacks all appeared to settle for one word, “Messiah”. But he’s much more than that.

Maybe they should haul him down to Rathkeale so we can pay homage to himself and our Lady of the Tree Stump.

Tuesday’s four goal salvo took his haul to the season to thirty nine. The 22 year old is already being mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Best and Maradona, and er, Paddy Mulligan, who was quite skilful in his own right, after a fashion.

The London Times described Tuesday’s performance as an extraordinary display of verve, balance, technique, power and poetry. He got 10 out of 10 in the match ratings.

The last sports person to get a perfect ten was Romanian gymnast Nadia Elena Com?neci at the 1976 Olympics – but was she happy out there behind the Iron Curtain?

Matt Dickinson of the Times believes that Messi has taken the debate about who is the best players of all time into another realm. However, he also  believes that the diminutive Argentinean has still to catch up with Zinedine Zidane.

Dickinson said: “Of recent greats, he sits below Zinedine Zidane, too, in that Messi does not aspire to be the conductor of his side, simply the dazzling virtuoso.”

So can Messi usurp Maradona, Best, Pele and Zidane – find him an Italian to head-butt – in the pantheon of all time  greats?

Whatever about the best player of all time accolades, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he is currently the best player on the planet.

Wayne Rooney (34 goals this term) has almost single-handedly rescued Man United’s season and rent boy lookalike Cristiano Ronaldo has netted 25 goals for Real Madrid – who top the table ahead of Barca on goal difference in Primera Liga –  are the only two coming anywhere near Messi.

Between the three of them they have scored almost 100 times this season. According to his coach Pep Guardiola, Messi is playing football from another planet, but Guardiola was also quick to praise his modesty.

“The good thing about Messi is that tomorrow he will get up and look for the affection of his people and his team-mates. I like the love he has for football and his anonymous character.”

Meanwhile, Messi will line out for Barca away to Real Madrid  in “El Classico” on Saturday night. If he produces anything like he produced against Arsenal on Tuesday they’ll bus him straight up to the Vatican for instant canonisation.  God knows the Holy See could do with some decent PR these days.

But best do it fast as the Messiah could go on another rampage against Bayern Munich. We hear that yer man on the throne of St Peter is a fan of the Bundesliga side.

Meantime, how did Messi escape the clutches of the coaches, with their FIFA badges and bullshit? If they had got their hands on him a few years back they would have knocked all that four goal nonsense out of him.

I saw one of them in action recently and he was telling an U/14 side to keep playing it into the “hole”, that point in between the full back and the centre half. The idea is to risk losing possession as far up the field as possible in the hope of gaining second phase possession after you’ve turned the defence.

However, why not pass it in behind the back four? As Brian Clough once said, football is a simple  game. You pass the ball to a player wearing the same colour shirt as you and proceed in an orderly fashion toward the opposite goal.

But spare a thought for the poor coaches folks. They’re out there trying to knock every ounce of imagination and creativity out of the kids while this Barcelona guy is undermining them every step of the way, with his goals, skill, power, verve and poetry, going forward.

You won’t find what Messi, Best, Pele or Maradona and thousands others were and are doing on the FIFA coaching manuel kids. But you will find it on the streets, where what Messi is doing now was conceived and perfected after thousand of hours of practice many years ago.

Soccer Sport


Now look. It’s like this.

We travelled to Llanelli in high hope, and we were beaten fair and square by a team who were better on the night. We have no complaints, though obviously we were downcast and disappointed. We travelled home in our thousands, sadder but philosophical about it.

And then we heard the news that the French and the English clubs don’t want to take part next year, so there might be no more European Rugby Cup for [tag]Munster[/tag] to win.

Today, sadly, Llanelli lost to Leicester and are out of the Cup.

Dear God Almighty, is there no end to this dismal litany?

Well, actually there is, because last week our little [tag]Scunthorpe[/tag] club, whom we follow with devotion, though they are located in a foreign land and play not rugby but Association Football (soccer to everyone but the Brits) secured promotion to the Championship. That’s only one league below Manchester United and Chelsea. Scunthorpe!! What??

And today, by beating Tranmere, they virtually guaranteed their place as champions of League One.

Now, this is no consolation for [tag]Munster[/tag] falling out of the European Rugby Cup, and I’m not suggesting it has any significance at all for Limerick people. I’ll be more direct that that : it hasn’t. Most Limerick people have never heard of Scunthorpe, with the exception of the worn-out few who have to listen to me ranting on about them.

Nevertheless, for those who actually travel to Scunthorpe for games, when idiot airlines permit it, this is a bit of a lift. OK. It isn’t [tag]rugby[/tag] and it isn’t Munster, but hey, it’s something to lift the gloom. N’est ce pas?

Championes!! Championes!!

kick it on