Remembering the past: Manchester United’s Eric Cantona gives Palace fan a kung fu kick for the ages

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Admit it, you love a good football story. Whether it’s a long drawn-out novel from your mate about his recent footballing endeavours, the unbelievable story of how Blackburn won the title in 1995 (yes, they actually won the EPL title), or that moment in history when Eric Cantona tried kung fu on a rabid Palace fan, there will always be stories from the past that allow us to reminisce about how great football was back then.

With the 2008-09 Premiership season less than a month away, we only thought it was right to take a look back at some of the insane and impossible moments from the past 20 years of the Premier League. Each week, we will highlight a particular moment in history that may have gotten pushed aside. Where were you when the moment happened?

January 27, 2005 — Manchester United/Crystal Palace

Call it a day that will live in infamy, the black mark on Cantona’s career, or merely the “kung fu kick heard around the world”. Whatever name you associate with Eric Cantona’s two-footed assault on a Crystal Palace fan during in January 1995, I think it’s safe to safe to say that most football fans remember it under one name: the most bizarre moment in Premier League history.

The incident started just three minutes into the second half of the match against Crystal Palace, when Cantona kicked opposing defender Richard Shaw. That kick resulted in a red card and ejection for Cantona. Television pictures showed the Frenchman walking alongside the grandstand when mayhem broke loose.

In a split second, Cantona turned and lunged with both feet at a ground-level fan who had apparently had been shouting obscenities at him from the front row of the stands. The two-footed kick was followed by an blur of punches from Cantona on Palace fan Matthew Simmons.

Cantona claimed that Simmons had shouted racial insults at him as he left the pitch, as well as launching a missile at him. While nothing could be certain from the footage, what was certain was that Cantona’s actions were something out of a martial arts film.

When Sir Alex Ferguson brought Cantona to the club after numerous run-ins with opposing teams in the French League, he knew he was taking a chance. But little did anyone know that he was capable of such acrobatic manoeuvres as this!

“I was told I was taking a risk, but you gamble on every player,” Manchester United’s manager, Alex Ferguson, said shortly after taking on Cantona. “You may as well gamble on one who lifts people out of their seats.”

And boy did he ever lift people out of their seats. He was able to launch a lad clear out of his seat with his own two feet!

Cantona was eventually fined £20,000 and banned from playing for Manchester United for nine months, stripped of his captaincy of the French national team, as well as losing his place in the side.
Courts also found him guilty of assault and sentenced him to 120 hours community service.

While the Cantona kick will forever be part of Premier lore, most Manchester United supporters might remember the kick and suspension for another reason. After watching their star disappear from the squad early in January, the club would go one to watch in horror as Blackburn won the 1995 Premiership title by a single point. I’m sure many would agree that Cantona’s ability on the pitch was worth more than one single point.

After returning to the team from his suspension, Cantona tried to wax poetic about the whole ordeal with a comparison quote.

“When seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think that sardines will be thrown into the sea,” Cantona would say, comparing the British press to seagulls.

But that was Eric Cantona – brash, insane and irreplacable. His goals and style made him a legend, but for one day during that 1995 season, Cantona went down in the books for all the wrong reasons.

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