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Eric Cantona 1992-1997 185 Games 80 Goals

November 23, 2009

Written by: Robi Prosser

Eric Daniel Pierre Cantona started his career with S.O Caillols, his local team  who were noted for also starting the career’s of Jean Tigana and Christophe Galtier. Eric began his career in the position on the pitch that no one would ever imagine him playing, he followed in his father’s footsteps and started his career as a goal keeper, this however didn’t last long as Cantona’s creative instincts started to show and before long he started to upfront more nad more often, it was said “at the age of nine Cantona was already playing like a fifteen year old.” Cantona played more than two hundred games for S.O Caillols untill at the age of fifteen years old he was spotted and signed by his first professional club Auxerre, he spent two years in the Auxerre youth team untill he got the call up to the first team in November 1983.

Cantona had to carry out his the duty of his National Service in 1984 so he missed the first half of the season, on his return to Auxerre he was farmed out on loan to gain some first team experience at Martigues in the French Second Division, he scored four goals in fifteen games that he played, on his return to his parent club he was awarded with his first professional contract, he was playing so well in the new season that he earned his first call up to the French National Team and also gained his first international full cap, Cantona the man and Cantona the player was never far away from controversy during his career and the first of these incidents happened in 1987, he was fined for punching Bruno Martini who was his team-mate in the face, the following season he received a three match ban for a dangerous tackle on Nantes player Michel Der Zakarian, the ban got reduced to two matches when his club threatened to pull Cantona out of the up coming u-21 international tournament, Cantona did indeed go and play in the tournament and as part of the French u-21 team he won the u-21 European Championships in 1988, his good performance resulted in him being signed for his boy hood heroes Marseille in what at the time was a record transfer fer between French clubs, he has played ninety games for Auxerre and scored 25 goals, Cantona was shortly in trouble after his move to Marseille , this time he was banned from the French National Team for a year after he insulted the then national team coach Henri Michel a bag of shit on national tv. Cantona was having a tough time settling in at Marseille and four months after being banned from the National Team he was in trouble again, during a friendly game against Torpedo Moscow, after seeing that he was going to be substituted Cantona got angry and kicked the ball at the spectators in the crowd, he then ripped his shirt off and threw it in disgust, Marseille responded by giving him a one month ban.

After his early problems settling in Marseille decided Cantona should be sent out on loan, he spent six months on loan at Bordeaux where he played eleven games and scored 6 goals, on his return to Marseille he was again sent out on loan this time to Montpellier for a year, He wasn’t there long before he was in trouble yet again, this time Eric threw his boots into the face of fellow player Jean-Claude Lemoult after an argument, no less than six of Montpellier’s players then demanded that the club sack Cantona for his actions, the was a problem though as Montpellier’s star players Laurent Blanc and Carlos Valderamma plus other players stood by Cantona and gave him support something he never really had before, the club decided that the best action was to give Cantona a ban for ten days, it was just as well Montpellier didn’t sack Cantona as he played an instrumental part of the successful run in winning the French FA Cup, his good form at Montpellier where he scored 18 goals in 41 games he played had persuaded Marsielle to take Cantona back to their first team instead of letting him go to another club.

Cantona was now showing why Marseille shelled out the record transfer fee for him with some very impressive performances on the pitch, however Marseille chairman Bernard Tapie and Cantona never really saw eye to eye but Cantona managed to get keep his frustrations at bay as he liked working with current manager Franz Beckenbauer, the problems started when after a run of bad results Tapie sacked Beckenbauer and replaced him as manager with Raymond Goethals, Cantona never got on with Goethals and there always seemed that it would only take a little thing to make Cantona explode, the results improved on pitch however and Cantona helped Marseille to the French League Title in 1990-1991, but the constant trouble with the chairman and the manager led to Cantona being sold to Nimes in June 1991.

In all his time at Marseille Cantona played 48 games and scored 15 goals for them, during a match with his new club in December 1991 Cantona was again at the center of controversy, having already been angered by the referee for his questionable decisions during the game Cantona snapped at picked the ball up in open play and threw the ball at the referee. His actions landed him in hot water with the French Footballing Federation and he was called to a disciplinary hearing with them, during the hearing the federation took a dim few on Cantona’s reasons for doing what he did and they banned Cantona for a month, obviously Cantona being Cantona did not agree with this and in turn he went up to every member on the disciplinary board and told each one of them and called them and “idiot” to their faces, his ban got increased to three months, this hurt Cantona and after playing just 19 games and scoring 4 goals for Nimes Cantona announced his retirement from football with immediate effect in December 1991. Michel Platini was now in charge of the French National Team and he was a big fan of Cantona’s talent, he persuaded Cantona not to retire and stay in football, after talking to Gerard Houllier as well as his psychoanalyst, he moved to England for a fresh start, Cantona said “he [my psychoanalyst] advised me not to sign for a French club and move to England.”

Cantona arrived in england without a club in January 1992, he went on trial for one week with Sheffield Wednesday although he done well their manager wasn’t sure and asked Cantona to stay on trial for another week, Cantona refused and was offered a contract with yorkshire rivals Leeds United which he accepted, Cantona had a new lease of life at Leeds, he won the First Division Championship in his first year at the club, he only scored five goals but he supplied many assists. At the beginning of the 1992-93 season Cantona started the season in scintillating  form scoring a hat-trick in the 4-3 Charity Shield win over Liverpool, he followed this up by scoring another hat-trick in the 5-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, this goal scoring form had managers from other clubs take note and when Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson phoned United to enquire about the availability of Denis Irwin who they were told was not for sale, Ferguson countered Wilkinson phone call with a cheeky request to see if Cantona was available for a transfer to United, within a few days on 26 November 1992 Cantona became a Manchester United player for what is now regarded as a paltry some of £1.2 million.

Cantona found his spiritual home at Old Trafford and settled into life there very quickly, not only was he scoring goals but was also creating many assists aswell, but in typical Cantona fashion the controversial player from France was up to no good again, United were playing Leeds United at Elland Road where after much abuse from the Leeds fans Cantona spat at a fan which resulted in him getting a £1000 fine from the Football Association. Cantona was an inspiration at United and in his first season United won the league for the first time in 26 years, because of Cantona’s great for in helping United secure the league title he was voted PFA Footballer of the Year in 1994 and this made him the first foreign player to ever win the award, the only problems was Cantona was missing games due to suspension and his on field discipline became a concern as he was sent of four times which ended up with him getting a five match ban

The following season proved to be the most controversial of Cantona’s career, United were playing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park when Cantona was again sent off, this time for kicking Palace player Richard Shaw, the worse was yet to  come as was walking of the pitch accompanied by the United kit man Albert Morgan the Palace fans were given Cantona a barrage of abuse, the red mist ascended over Cantona again and he ran and jumped two footed into the crowd kicking the very abusive fan Matthew Simmons who was later banned from all football grounds for a year in the chest followed by a series of punches untill stewards pulled Cantona away and led him down the tunnel. United set up a press conference after the game and Cantona was there to explain his actions but Cantona being Cantona this was no ordinary press conference, when asked a question by a reporter Cantona responded with a quote that was referring to the way the papers hounded him at every chance they got with what is probably the most famous quote in football, “when the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much,” he then got up off his seat and left the bemused looking conference room.

Cantona was sentenced to two weeks in jail which was later reduced to 120 hours of community service for the attack on the fan and banned for remaining four months of the season by United in accordance with the Football Association, the suspension was later increased to a nine month world-wide ban and a £10,000 fine on top of the fine of two weeks wages at United, he was also stripped of the captaincy of the French National Team, there was much speculation that Cantona would quit from the game but Alex Ferguson stood by Cantona which Cantona had never received from managers in france, this and the fans who constantly chanted his name at Old Trafford even though he was banned for nine months made him feel very much-loved and a part of Old Trafford.

United lost the league title in 1994-1995 without the enigmatic Cantona in  the team due to his ban, when the nine months were up Cantona came back to the first team with a bang setting up a goal and scoring in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but without playing competitive football for nine months the games began to take their toll and Cantona was starting to look a bit jaded, after a short break though things changed and United overhauled a 10 point deficit to Newcastle United with the help of Cantona’s goals and assists to once again reign as League champions, better was still yet to come for Cantona with Steve Bruce not being fit enough to take his place in the FA Cup final team Cantona was made Captain for the game, Cantona gave a captains performance and scored the only goal with a superbly taken volleyed goal to win the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over arch rivals Liverpool, Cantona also became the first foreign player to captain a team to the FA Cup trophy he was also voted FWA Player of the Year in 1996.

After Steve Bruce left on a free transfer to Birmingham City, Alex Ferguson appointed Eric Cantona has the new captain of Manchester United, this also made him the first foreign player to ever captain the club. During the season Cantona galvanised the United team to great success with the likes of Ryan Giggs and the younger players like David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Gray Neville emerging under his influence, United won the league title again for the fourth time in five seasons which was a remarkably achievement, it was Eric Cantona’s sixth league title in the last seven season which goes to show how valuable a player he was.

After the season finished came an announcement that was met with great dismay by the united fans and shook Old Trafford to its core, Eric Cantona retired from the game of football at the age of 30 years old for good. Although he retired after only 185 games for the club Cantona has a legendary status at Old Trafford amongst the fans because of his enormous contributions to the team including 66 assists and 80 goals, Cantona’s name is still sung amongst the faithful at Old Trafford today such is the affection from the fans for what he helped the club achieve, in 2004 Cantona was quoted as saying, “I’m so proud the fans still sing my name, but I fear tomorrow they will stop. I fear it because I love it, and everything you love, you fear you will lose.”

When asked in 2007 about some of his most memorable moments at United, he responded in typical Cantona fashion, “I have a lot of good moments, but one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”

one of my all time favourite quotes about Cantona came from a Nike advert
1966 was a great year for English football, Eric Cantona was born.

It was a pleasure for me growing up watching a player of Cantona’s ability and skill, he had a unknown quantity about him, this was part of the appeal: he has the inaccessible, exotic qualities of a star.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2009 7:40 pm

    Good BLOG buddy. He will always be to me the greatest Man.Unt. player I have seen. I know when Cantona retired and a reporter asked him if he would ever come out of retirement to play for anouther club he replied. “Once I took the Man.Unt. shirt of I could never put anouther teams shirt on”.Thats how great the King is to all of us Man.Unt. supporters.

    • November 23, 2009 7:42 pm

      thanks Audouc I remeber him saying that he foud his spiritual home at Old Trafford and for me he was an amazing player to watch as a young man

  2. adam (carpy) permalink
    November 23, 2009 11:03 pm

    i took great pleasure from reading this. great indepth post about eric’s footballing life.
    i must say robi you have added some cracking quotes into that work, they were funny to read, i enjoyed this very much.

    how you could write so much though is beyond me, great stuff mate keep it up.

    • November 23, 2009 11:09 pm

      Cheers Adam
      the quotes werent in my original copy I wrote on paper but as I was typing it up this morning it felt fitting to add them in to the post I am glad I did aswell because I think it improves the post.

  3. May 25, 2014 1:49 am

    only one criticism he scored 83 goals

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