No I am not on the gear, that was my attempt at a Cantona-esque quote (I tried!) and 16 years ago the mercurial French star was at the centre of a storm, possibly the biggest in his tempestuous career.
In a game at Selhurst Palace having been sent off for kicking out at Richard Shaw after having his shirt pulled, Cantona launched a now infamous kung fu kick at Palace fan Matthew Simmons then followed it up with a series of punches. Simmons had allegedly made a remark about Cantona’s mother, the kind of thing that I can’t re type and the fiery French man replied with some studs to the chest and some punches for good measure.
At first Cantona was seen as some sort of mad man, people condemned him for the act but when a better picture of Simmons emerged it became apparent he wasn’t as much of a victim as it was made out.
A series of criminal convictions including an attempted violent robbery using a spanner as well as it being confirmed that he had attended a National Front rally a little time before the incident, it became apparent that Simmons wasn’t the innocent little victim as people made out.
Simmons would be charged with using threatening language and behaviour given a 7 day sentence of which he served one whilst Cantona was fined 20 grand (another 10k was added) and suspended worldwide for 8 months, thus missing the last 4 months of that season as well as the start of the following.
The whole affair spawned one of footballs greatest moment when Cantona said at a press conference:
This whole incident was part of the Cantona mystique and remains part of why we love him. In 2004 Simmons gave an interview with The Guardian where he protested his innocence and stated he would like an apology, good luck with that because in 2007 Cantona said,
“I have a lot of good moments, but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”