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Eric Cantona’s ‘only regret’ is he didn’t kick Matthew Simmons more

Man Utd: Marcus Rashford and Ryan Giggs discuss Eric Cantona

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The second episode of the BBC’s Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League this week detailed Jack Walker’s Blackburn Rovers and the club’s maiden Premier League title. The show also explores that season’s most iconic and talked about moment ‒ Cantona’s lunge into the terraces to kung-fu kick a fan, Simmons. The program discusses the events with archival footage and exclusive interviews with Cantona as well as former Palace defender Richard Shaw.

Shaw was involved in a challenge that led to the Frenchman’s red card, just before he kicked out at Simmons. 

The enigmatic Manchester United legend told the program that his “only regret” was that he didn’t kick Simmons more. 

Cantona said: “I have one regret. I didn’t kick him more than that.

The Frenchman shocked the footballing world after he lashed out at the fan, fly kicking him before dropping a roundhouse kick. 

Upon the event Cantona received a wave of criticism from the press, was given the maximum fine permitted by his contract, and suspended for the rest of the 94/95 Premier League season. 

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney said Sir Matt Busby would have sacked Cantona, while legendary manager Brian Clough claimed he would have “cut his balls off”.

The Premier League star was also given a two week prison sentence that was later overturned by the court of appeal.

Yet public opinion sooned turned as a court prosecuted Simmons for two charges of using threatening words and behaviour after he was found to have directed xenophobic language at the footballer and insulted his mother.

The court was told of the supporter’s links with the National Front while he had also previously been convicted of an armed robbery. 

As Simmons received a guilty verdict for his part in the Cantona incident he launched himself over the front bench and grabbed prosecutor Jeffrey McCann before being apprehended by court staff.

Simmons then shouted “I am innocent, I swear on the Bible” and called the press “scum”.

Speaking on Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League, former News of the World chief football writer Paul McCarthy said: “I don’t think you can be two faced about Eric Cantona. 

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“You couldn’t pretend that what he did wasn’t out of order. It was completely. 

“But there was provocation ‒ a lot of English fans were fuelled by right wing bigotry, they were driven by xenophobia and hatred of anything non-English.

“Cantona was a symbol of that unfortunately.”

He added: “It sparked awareness within football that [though Cantona had] gone a step too far we can understand why he did it. 

“I think what players realised ‒ black, foreign, English ‒ is we know the level of abuse and we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”

After Simmons’ conviction the Independent’s Richard Williams, jokingly said, like Cantona that: “[His] only mistake was to stop hitting him.

“The more we discovered about Mr Simmons, the more Cantona’s assault looked like the instinctive expression of a flawless moral judgement.”

On Fantasy Football League Nick Hancock called it “comfortably the best thing that’s happened this season” while many players privately understood what Cantona had done.  

Former Crystal Palace and Arsenal striker Ian Wright even said he felt “jealous” of Cantona.

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