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Me, the Duke and King Eric

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Dan Walker | 07:45 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

It was great to get Rafael Benitez on the Football Focus sofa on Saturday. Plenty of you seemed to be interested in what the former Liverpool and Inter Milan manager had to say. I thought he came across very well. His "short blanket" analogy was particularly popular with viewers. I think the gist of it was that a really good side will always find a way to expose you even if you attack or defend as a unit.

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Rafa had come prepared for a game of chess before we went to air but I was otherwise occupied with rehearsals - thankfully. The truth is, I did not want to be embarrassed again. My chess skills need some serious work before I expose them in public once again. Last time out, Rafa removed my queen within the first 10 moves!

Talking of royalty, I was invited to St James's Palace this week to make an "inspirational" speech to a group of people who had earned the gold standard on the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. The man himself also turned up to shake some hands.

I decided to talk to the gathered throng about my three sporting heroes - Shun Fujimoto, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Eric Liddell.

I first heard about Fujimoto at school. He was the Japanese gymnast who helped his country to team gold at the 1976 Olympics despite having a broken knee. During my Tour de France-obsessed teenage years, I loved Abdoujaparov's crazy style and sprinting duels with Laurent Jalabert. As for the story of Liddell, particularly his exploits after winning the 400m at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, that has always fascinated me.

It was during my speech that I was tapped on the shoulder by a palace official. "I'm afraid the Duke is ready now," he said. My suggestion that His Royal Highness should come in to hear the end of my address did not go down too well (Mistake 1).

The Duke came in and asked a few of the young people and leaders about their achievements, occasionally chatting to the proud parents. As I waited in line to meet him, I remembered the one piece of advice I had been given: "Whatever you do, don't ask him any questions." That's a lot harder to do than you think.

Host: This is Dan Walker from the BBC
Duke: Hello there, how are you?
Me: I'm fine thank you sir... how about you? (Mistake 2)
Duke: [Ignores question] What is it you do?
Me: I'm here to talk about my job to the young people
Duke: Of course, but what is it you do?
Me: I present a programme called Football Focus every Saturday
Duke: Right
Me: If you ever fancy coming on let me know! (Mistake 3)
Duke: [Laughs politely]
Me: We've got a spare spot this week if you're free? (Mistake 4)

At this point, I could feel the heat coming from the eyes of one of the Duke's aides. The parents in earshot were giggling and I heard someone muttering "etiquette" in my direction as the royal party left the room.

Thankfully, I made it out of the palace without getting hauled off to the Tower.

Our interview with Eric Cantona will finally get an outing this week. Regular blog readers will know that I went to see him in New York about 10 days ago. I cannot give away too much but he has some particularly explosive opinions. For a man who won the old Division One championship with Leeds United, four titles in five seasons with Manchester United and played nearly 50 times for France, you might be surprised to hear what the highlight of his career is... Rest assured, you will find out later this week.

Dan and EricMe and Eric in New York

There are some footballers who give you the impression that they are deep thinkers but Cantona genuinely is one. He has no interest in talking about his medals and accolades. For him, it is all about the future. There is no trophy room at Chateau Cantona.

Even if you have very little time for Cantona, I suggest you watch Football Focus on BBC One on Saturday (1215 GMT). You will get a real insight into one of football's most fascinating characters.

If you have any questions about the man many call the King, the Duke or the show in general, then please stick them down below. I would also be interested to know who makes your list of sporting heroes.

As ever, the best way to follow the build-up to the show is at twitter.com/danwalkerbbc.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I should think it'll make a change to hear from a footballer (albeit, a retired one) who isn't obsessed by how many medal's he's accumulated. For some of them, that's all they are bothered about, and their burgeoning bank balances of course.

    It sounds like you may have a wait on your hands for the MBE after your encounter. At least you didn't do a Mr Bean and headbutt him when you were introduced to him!

    Jack Regan

  • Comment number 2.

    PS I think the story of Eric Liddell is almost a mythological one because of it being nearly 90 years ago since those Olympics in Paris, Chariots of Fire, and with it being a totally different era. Then of course what happened to him unfortunately during the Second World War. That direct rivalry between two athletes has a sort of modern comparison in Coe and Ovett I suppose.

    Eddie Shoestring

  • Comment number 3.

    My sporting hero would have to be Phil Taylor. Multiple word champion and the only world class athlete we can all aspire to look like!!

    Robert McCall....

  • Comment number 4.

    Surely the reason you become a sportsman is to win medals and become successful - did Cantona not enjoy winning when he was playing? I understand that there is more to sport than just winning but I believe that every true sportsman strives to become successful and a result of this is medals and trophies - sometimes Eric Cantona can become too obsessed with Eric Cantona and wants to become something other than a sports star - get a grip on reality Eric!

  • Comment number 5.

    This Duke of Edinburgh character sounds a bit arrogant.

  • Comment number 6.

    My own thoughts are that there are sportsmen who want to win at all costs and hope this leads to medals and riches and those who want to perform their sport to their highest level which may also lead to medals and riches. The first type can at times degrade into cheating whereas the second would not.
    This neatly feeds into the (film) story of Eric Liddel and Harold Abrahams where Eric describes his running as a grace from god whereas Harold applies more professionalism to his natural gifts.
    If you have seen the film Looking for Eric, he explains his best football moment not of scoring a particular goal but a beautiful pass played to Dennis Irwin from which Irwin scored.
    I also think that all the other interests are not because Cantona became too big for football but that football became too small for him.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Dan

    Was there any chance that you could have arranged a discussion between the Duke of Edinburgh and Cantona? That could be very entertaining!

    Having Rafa on the football focus sofa was a real treat, would love to see him there again, if only so he can stay out of the way in the kitchen! :)

    Cantona was a talented player, and probably the best player in the Premier League during his Man Utd days. But he never really could perform in the big European games and this probably played a part in his exclusion from the French squads that were so successful at the time.

    Sporting hero?

    Kurt Angle won an Olympic freestyle Wrestling heavyweight Gold Medal in Atlanta 1996 with a broken neck!

  • Comment number 8.

    #5 you sound like you haven't seen/read much about the Duke of Edinburgh previously...? Royalty of a certain age can often come across as rather aloof - you might want to do a google search on him if you don't know much about him.

    He has a penchant for (proverbially) putting his foot into his mouth when talking to certain people.

    Looking forward to the Cantona interview and seeing what he has to say. Is his explosive comment something about how the French secrety love English cuisine or something?

    Zen

  • Comment number 9.

    Your experience with the Duke is similar to mine with his son. I was in the line up, as the Administration manager for my company in Argentina. He was there to inaugurate a branch I had just finished.
    When asked what I did, I answered "Not a lot, I just stay in my ivory tower".
    That didn't go down too well either.

  • Comment number 10.

    I find your conversation with the Duke highly suspicious. He spoke to you four times and didn't insult you once?

    I can only assume it's been heavily edited...

  • Comment number 11.

    #7 Cantona was excluded from the french squads because of his disputes with the staff not his playing ability. I seem to remember footage of him leaving the field and throwing his shirt at the bench sometime in the early 1990s.
    Also off the top of my head he retired around 96-97, the france squad wasn't "so successful" until they won the world cup in 1998, prior to that their success had come in the 1980s under Platini and co. (As i recall England beat them in Le Tournoi in 1997 although I might be wrong)

  • Comment number 12.

    #7, surely having a neck with the same girth as your torso doesn't really count as having a broken neck - the guy has got enough neck muscle to not need it anyway! Besides, he did have a few months to recover before the Olympics if WP is to be trusted ...

    Surely Bert Trautmann is a more topical inspiration for his '56 FA Cup final effort? :)

  • Comment number 13.

    The Duke seems like a nasty piece of work, too wrapped up in his own self-importance. Doesn't he know he is a national joke, and the only reason people respect him is the $$$ we get from America and Japan for having 'royals'??

    Much like Mickey Mouse brings in the $$$ for Florida.

    Eric Cantona is hilarious, but usually underneath is a biting truth. Top bloke.

  • Comment number 14.

    Does your mother know your out?

  • Comment number 15.

    Behind my desk I have pictures of my three heroes, two of which are sporting characters - Eric Liddell and CB Fry. Only CB Fry is up there for his sporting achievements. I heard about Liddell initially the same way as most others via Chariots Of Fire, it was when I read up on the people in the film, that I got to know Liddell's extra-ordinary story. Liddell whilst being undeniably one of this countries finest sportsmen, elevated himself in my eyes to hero by his actions following the early end of his sporting career. What a man! I encourage anyone not knowing his story to find out about him. You will feel humbled.

  • Comment number 16.

    #11 - Yes we did, 1-0 with an Alan Shearer goal. (As I recall it was a controversial celebration from Al, as he raced off with one hand in the air AND THEN CHANGED HAND!!!) We actually won that tournament overall too, despite being beaten by Brazil, as they drew with Italy & France. But the tournament will always be remembered for THAT goal by Roberto Carlos!

    Really looking forward to the Cantona interview. There are some people who just have a certain aura about them and he is one. Dan, I'm sure you'll tell us next week what it was like; any chance of adding an unedited/extended version of the interview too?

    As for sporting heroes I'd have to go for Sir Steve Redgrave. Legend.

    Jim Carver

  • Comment number 17.

    11. At 11:47am on 3rd Mar 2011, gexo11 wrote:
    #7 Cantona was excluded from the french squads because of his disputes with the staff not his playing ability. I seem to remember footage of him leaving the field and throwing his shirt at the bench sometime in the early 1990s.
    Also off the top of my head he retired around 96-97, the france squad wasn't "so successful" until they won the world cup in 1998, prior to that their success had come in the 1980s under Platini and co. (As i recall England beat them in Le Tournoi in 1997 although I might be wrong)
    ----------------------------------------
    Yes England did win the clash in Le Tournoi, but all I really remember from that tournament was the Roberto Carlos free kick! I remember pre 98 there was quite a call for Ginola and Cantona to be part of the French squad (In England) but the French wisely ignored these calls and it turned out pretty well for them with 'the water carrier' lifting the World Cup!

  • Comment number 18.

    #16 Heady days, being that it came not long after the 4-1 triumph over the Netherlands in Euro '96 and the win (on penalties) over Spain. That's just brought back memories of when England smashed Spain courtesy of a few goals from Lineker back in the 80's (I think).

    Ted Roach

  • Comment number 19.

    12. At 11:52am on 3rd Mar 2011, Spigz wrote:
    #7, surely having a neck with the same girth as your torso doesn't really count as having a broken neck - the guy has got enough neck muscle to not need it anyway! Besides, he did have a few months to recover before the Olympics if WP is to be trusted ...

    Surely Bert Trautmann is a more topical inspiration for his '56 FA Cup final effort? :)

    ------------------------------

    Good call on Bert Trautmann!

    My understanding is that Angle still was suffering with a Broken Neck when the Olympics started, and the nature of the sport is that there is a lot of pressure applied to your neck so it's really quite something! I do remember that he also popped a hip joint in the final (something like that, I'm not a doctor) so that must take some guts!

  • Comment number 20.

    Is it his Kung Fu exploits that Eric is most proud of?

    Sporting Hero is Cliffy Young, an unknown Australian farmer who, at the age of 61 beat all of the starters and won the first Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon in 5d 15h 4m.

  • Comment number 21.

    20. At 12:16pm on 3rd Mar 2011, mickydint wrote:
    Is it his Kung Fu exploits that Eric is most proud of?

    Sporting Hero is Cliffy Young, an unknown Australian farmer who, at the age of 61 beat all of the starters and won the first Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon in 5d 15h 4m.
    ----------------------------
    He was only on the road to pop to his neighbours to borrow a pint of Milk! :)

  • Comment number 22.

    Surprised at the lack of people with sporting hereos who are actually footballers in this thread especially Dan who obviously has to spend a lot of time immersing himself in the sport. I know many are scrotes these days but for those in their 20's and older there's plenty to go on with. Cantona for me hands down.

    If Eric is consistent his best moment is the kung-fu kick as #26 says.

  • Comment number 23.

    My sporting hero: Dmitry Bilozerchev, soviet gymnast and Olympic and world champion. He broke his leg in 40 places in a car accident, and doctors were going to amputate if it wasn't for his status. He came back from that to win another world championship and 3 more gold medals at the Seoul Olympics.

  • Comment number 24.

    #22 you are the first time-traveller I have ever come across... I'm looking forward to reading what else #26 ends up writing.

    I suppose everyone does likes Kung-fu fighting...

    Hong Kong Phooey

  • Comment number 25.

    Footballing Heroes? Depends what the definition of hero is! But here are some players who deserve a mention.

    Gabriel Batisuta - A fantastic striker, week in week out scoring in what was then the toughest league in the World. It always makes me wonder how Michael Owen became European footballer of the year and a far more superior goal scorer and player such as Batistuta never did!

    Diego Maradona - The greatest ever.

    Gheorge Hagi - Fantastic left foot, and some of the greatest chipped goals in history!

    John Barnes - (I'm a Livepool fan) at his peak in the late eighties he could destroy teams almost on his own.

    Paulo Maldini - A gentleman, the consomate professional and in my opinion the greatest left back of all time.

    Gheorge Weah - Imagine a Drogba with greater pace who doesn't fall over!

    Dejan Savicevic - A genius will the ball at his feet.

  • Comment number 26.

    By your etiquette problems; I assume they meant observing outdated subservience, rather than a perfectly respectful conversation. It may sell a lot of plates and glossy magazines but surely the Monarchy is past it’s sell by date.

    Guy Fawkes

  • Comment number 27.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Gary Bennett of Sunderland - Never forget him giving David Speedie a push into the crowd at Roker Park and a few fans giving Speedie a crack.

    Dennis Bergkamp - The best "first touch" footballer ever. Think about his great goals, almost all of them were started by a first touch of the ball he had no right to control (for Arsenal against Leicester and Newcastle. For Hollan v England at Wembley and Argentina in 98 World Cup).

    Peter Schmeichel - Worth 10 points a season alone for Manchester United.

  • Comment number 28.

    For me it has to be Giggs - what a proffessional (i am a United fan)

    George Bests gotta have a shout as well.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'd quite happily listen to any top sportsman telling me about the trophies & medals they've won, it's the tubes that tell you about the number of cars & diamond encrusted watches they have that give me the boak.

    As for sporting heroes Dan, surely number 1 has to be Des Lynam. Top 'tache, my friend. Top.

  • Comment number 31.

    P.S. Gosh golly darn it, I forgot my sign-off. How regrettable.


    Lt. Frank Drebin.
    Police Squad.

  • Comment number 32.

    # 29 - very small minded comment - grow up!

    All the best to Sir Jackie Stewart who fell ill on Wednesday. An excellent representative for both Scotland and GB... Get well soon Sir......

  • Comment number 33.

    wow, my estimation of you has gone up 10 fold to hear you are also a fan of the Tashkent Terror. though i always preferred jaja

  • Comment number 34.

    #8,Mr Bartholomew.Currently reading "Ratking" the first of the Aurelio Zen novels.Not a bad read,but I find it hard not to have the sound of Rufus Sewell in my mind when reading the dialogue.

    Saw a number of my sporting favourites on Film 4/TCM?one of those sorts when "Escape to Victory" was shown.Half the "German" side was made up with Ipswich players,as well as John Wark,Russell Osman and Kevin O@Callaghan playing for the allies.

    "Come on lads,we can still win this"

    Peter Boyd.

  • Comment number 35.

    My hero is Eddie the Eagle....
    You may laugh but this bloke learnt how to ski jump on top of a shed in his garden. Fully admitted he was crap but gave it a good “British stiff upper lip”. Threw himself off a shear cliff face which they call a ski jump and occasionally landed it. Top bloke in my book.

  • Comment number 36.

    Cantona is a hero. Not for his philosophy or thoughts, but for the invention & skill in his football play. And his down-to-earth nature illustrated by where he chose to live in Leeds & Manchester.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    13. At 11:56am on 3rd Mar 2011, The United Way wrote:

    The Duke seems like a nasty piece of work, too wrapped up in his own self-importance. Doesn't he know he is a national joke, and the only reason people respect him is the $$$ we get from America and Japan for having 'royals'??

    Much like Mickey Mouse brings in the $$$ for Florida.
    _____________________________________________________

    I don't buy that argument.I've never,for example,stood at the top of The Eiffel Tower and thought "Well,it's a fantastic view over such a beautiful city.But somehow the absence of a Royal Family takes away from the experience."

    Thomas Paine

  • Comment number 39.

    #16, Just reading back through the comments, you are of course correct about the Roberto Carlos Goal. He then spent the rest of his career pushng his team mates away from every free kick within 40 yds of the opposition goal, before blasting each one into the heavens.

  • Comment number 40.

    #17 - a couple of points lad:

    1. Cantona retired in 1997 so wasn't available for the World Cup in 1998 and in fact he was banned from the French squad after he attacked the Palace fan in 1995

    2. Common misinterpretation by those that don't know much about football - his comment about Deschamps being the "water carrier" was actually a compliment. He was implying that it is a difficult task but a vital one and that every successful team needs one.

  • Comment number 41.

    39. At 13:42pm on 3rd Mar 2011, CaptainOhara wrote:
    #16, Just reading back through the comments, you are of course correct about the Roberto Carlos Goal. He then spent the rest of his career pushng his team mates away from every free kick within 40 yds of the opposition goal, before blasting each one into the heavens.
    --------------------
    Yes in much the same way as England's David Beckham! Their success rate was never that high! If you want to see a real free kick expert then have a look at Sinisa Mihajlovic.

  • Comment number 42.

    25. At 12:49pm on 3rd Mar 2011, JamTay1 wrote:
    Footballing Heroes? Depends what the definition of hero is! But here are some players who deserve a mention.

    Gabriel Batisuta - A fantastic striker, week in week out scoring in what was then the toughest league in the World. It always makes me wonder how Michael Owen became European footballer of the year and a far more superior goal scorer and player such as Batistuta never did!

    Gheorge Weah - Imagine a Drogba with greater pace who doesn't fall over!

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Weah's style of play was nothing like Drogba. He was more like Samuel Eto'o, and to be honest I think Eto'o is better and has turned it on for longer than Weah did.

    Batistuta was a fantastic striker, but as you are a Liverpool fan it surprises me that you make that unfavourable comparison in regard to Michael Owen (unless you haven't forgiven him for his Man Utd move)

    Between 1998 and 2003 I thought that Michael Owen was inspirational for Liverpool in some of the big games and cup matches they had in that period with a team in transition under Houllier, without Owen you would not have won what you did. I am sure Michael Owen won European Player of the Year in 2001 for his consistent performances against Roma and Barcelona in that season as Liverpool won the UEFA Cup, and turning around the Cup Final against Arsenal practically on his own.

    Batistuta on the other hand was the main man in a medium-ranked side (Fiorentina), and won nothing- a bit like Shearer at Newcastle. By the time he won a scudetto with Roma he was rotated with the likes of Montella, Delvecchio, and Totti and he was past his best.


  • Comment number 43.

    #37
    Interesting that you checked out Wikipedia regarding Eric Liddell... I think you must have missed this extract, close to the top of the entry for him.

    A devout Christian, Liddell refused to run in a heat held on Sunday (the Christian Sabbath) and was forced to withdraw from the 100-metres race, his best event. The schedule had been published several months earlier, and his decision was made well before the Games. Liddell spent the intervening months training for the 400 metres, an event in which he had previously excelled. Even so, his success in the 400m was largely unexpected.

    Burnside

  • Comment number 44.

    Jim Stynes, Ozzie rules player, google him folks, absolute legend!

  • Comment number 45.

    so there we were, surrounded by three aligators, a tiger, four kangaroos and a dwarf that they all referred to as our dereck, he concerned me most, not least because of his rather disconcerting hat and fold away treadmill.

    i knew there was only one way out of this situation, it was risky, everything pointed towards certain death, or at the very least extreme peril but I knew I had to take my chance, so i took a deep breath and...


    Oh by the way did I mention how well my cheesecake went? marvellous it was, won the race and won it well too. So to all the doubters, HA

    any way, where was I?, oh yeah,

    .. So I got home just in time for tea and toast.


    Wally

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Dan,

    Eric Cantona has to be one of my all time heroes, i think alot of this comes from how good he was but he appeared to not care at times, as if it all came effortlessly. I can imagine him being a really good interviewee?(not sure if thats even a word but you get my point)

    What i would like to know is, who in your opinion, has been the best interview you have ever done and why?

    Many Thanks

  • Comment number 47.

    # 32

    A sporting hero of mine is Andy Murray.

    He might not be that good, but at least he isn't English...


  • Comment number 48.

    Dan,

    With all your hours of Beeb training I am sure you know far more about ettiquette than I do.... but would Mistake #5 have been re-hashing the details of your 'royal convo' and the guidelines you were given, mistakes made etc... with the likes of us in such a public forum as this?

    Eric Lidell is an amazing guy. For me the high point of his life was his leadership in the prison camp in China from 1943- 45. His earlier life demonstrated that while he was a man of principle, he also evidenced the flaws & contradictions that all of us have to learn how to address. Mercifully he knew how to address these.
    Question: did he actually opt not to run on the Sunday(out of Christian principle) but then sit in the stands and cheer on his stand in? If he did that seems to be a little 'anomalous' to me, but there again, he knew Who to turn to to set aside such 'anomalies'.
    The American trainer's 1 Sam2:30: "Those who honor me I will honor" is priceless- a real encouragement to any who seek to follow Lidell's example.

    Back to football, I'm waiting with eager anticipation the Cantona interview.

  • Comment number 49.

    Can't understand why #15 and Jake think Eric Liddell is a sporting hero. Just Wikipedia'ed him and he's nothing special. Just a devout scottish christian (that's 2 black marks already in my book) who although selected to run for GB, AND knew the race schedule, chose not to do so at the last minute ?

    How does that make him a hero ? Bottled it more like

  • Comment number 50.

    Dan, can I change my sporting hero to Andy Connor? Much love big man, you make my week.

    Actually, make that hero full stop!

  • Comment number 51.

    should be good, cantona likes to speak his mind

  • Comment number 52.

    #43
    Still don't understand why you think Liddell is a 'sporting hero' for bottling a race
    A christian hero, maybe
    A hero, maybe,
    but a sporting hero, NOT

  • Comment number 53.

    #50 I agree that Andy Connor is a hero of our time.
    I wouldn't be surprised to see a Facebook celebrity page setup in his honour at some point in the future.

    Banacek

  • Comment number 54.

    42. At 13:50pm on 3rd Mar 2011, Vox Populi wrote:
    25. At 12:49pm on 3rd Mar 2011, JamTay1 wrote:
    Footballing Heroes? Depends what the definition of hero is! But here are some players who deserve a mention.

    Gabriel Batisuta - A fantastic striker, week in week out scoring in what was then the toughest league in the World. It always makes me wonder how Michael Owen became European footballer of the year and a far more superior goal scorer and player such as Batistuta never did!

    Gheorge Weah - Imagine a Drogba with greater pace who doesn't fall over!

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Weah's style of play was nothing like Drogba. He was more like Samuel Eto'o, and to be honest I think Eto'o is better and has turned it on for longer than Weah did.

    Batistuta was a fantastic striker, but as you are a Liverpool fan it surprises me that you make that unfavourable comparison in regard to Michael Owen (unless you haven't forgiven him for his Man Utd move)

    Between 1998 and 2003 I thought that Michael Owen was inspirational for Liverpool in some of the big games and cup matches they had in that period with a team in transition under Houllier, without Owen you would not have won what you did. I am sure Michael Owen won European Player of the Year in 2001 for his consistent performances against Roma and Barcelona in that season as Liverpool won the UEFA Cup, and turning around the Cup Final against Arsenal practically on his own.

    Batistuta on the other hand was the main man in a medium-ranked side (Fiorentina), and won nothing- a bit like Shearer at Newcastle. By the time he won a scudetto with Roma he was rotated with the likes of Montella, Delvecchio, and Totti and he was past his best.
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    It's my own fault really. As a footballer Owen shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as Batistuta. But just to clear it up.

    1. Batistuta scored far more international goals than Owen. (Argentina's record goal scorer)
    2. Batistuta has scored far more goals in World Cups that Owen
    3. Batistuta has managed 20 League goals in a season. Owen has NEVER scored 20 league goals in a season
    4. Batistuta had a far greater all round game than Owen
    5. When Roma won the Scudetto Batistuta contributed 20 goals, although he was nearing the end of his career.
    6. Batistuta was very loyal, sticking with Fiorentina to near the end of his career, and only leaving to help the clubs financial plight. At his peak he could have walked into the first team of any club in the World.
    7. Batistuta was fitter and not constantly getting injured (Owen)
    8. Batistuta all time Argentine top scorer, All time Fiorentina top scorer, Foreign player of the year in Serie A, Top scorer in Serie A,

    Now not to dimish Michael Owen's achievements. He was a dangerous striker in those 5 years that you mentioned, but he has been in slow decline ever since. Even at his peak (the Liverpool years) he was never in the same class as Batistuta.

    Simply put in any measurable you want to pick, Batistuta was by far the superior player.


    As for Weah. Yes Eto has eclipsed him, I would say that we both are right! You could almost say Weah's style was a combination of Drogba and Eto!

  • Comment number 55.

    42. At 13:50pm on 3rd Mar 2011, Vox Populi wrote:

    Weah's style of play was nothing like Drogba. He was more like Samuel Eto'o, and to be honest I think Eto'o is better and has turned it on for longer than Weah did.

    Batistuta was a fantastic striker, but as you are a Liverpool fan it surprises me that you make that unfavourable comparison in regard to Michael Owen (unless you haven't forgiven him for his Man Utd move)

    Between 1998 and 2003 I thought that Michael Owen was inspirational for Liverpool in some of the big games and cup matches they had in that period with a team in transition under Houllier, without Owen you would not have won what you did. I am sure Michael Owen won European Player of the Year in 2001 for his consistent performances against Roma and Barcelona in that season as Liverpool won the UEFA Cup, and turning around the Cup Final against Arsenal practically on his own.

    Batistuta on the other hand was the main man in a medium-ranked side (Fiorentina), and won nothing- a bit like Shearer at Newcastle. By the time he won a scudetto with Roma he was rotated with the likes of Montella, Delvecchio, and Totti and he was past his best.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Totally agree that Weah is more like Eto'o than Drogba however dont agree that Eto'o is better. People generally remember George Weah for his 5 years with AC Milan between 1995 and 2000 however from 1988 to 1995 he was playing for Monaco and PSG in France and was banging goals in then. In 2000 he also had a decent loan spell with Chelsea grabbing 4 goals in 11 games and started in the FA Cup final which they won. He was african footballer of the year three times and in 1995 also won the World and European player of the year. He was also voted African player of the century. An incredible talent!!

    Gabriel Batistuta was awesome. Possibly the greatest natural finisher the game has ever seen. The great thing about Batistuta is he never wanted to be a footballer and was pushed into. Quite extrordinary!!

    My sporting heroes are Sir Alex Ferguson & Phil Taylor. Both amazing winners!!

  • Comment number 56.

    An enjoyable blog Dan, great work.
    I think Ryan Giggs deserves any praise he gets for playing at the highest level for 20 years, also seems to be a nice chap and a great role model. Still, I'm sure there's some United fans who will remember Cantona with more fondness.
    One sporting hero of mine is Kevin Sheedy of Everton, his cultured left foot always stood out in a decent team. I supported Everton in the early days, only switching to Bolton once I realised I could actually go there every week but hey, no regrets.
    Anyone else switch teams in the junior years? Family pressure? Glory-hunting?
    Rocky Balboa
    http://scottssportsandsocial.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 57.

    Sporting Heroes?

    For me it's those countless men and women up and down the country who run the sports clubs and associations for the love of the sport, not for financial gain. Those who give up their time and effort (and in most cases money) without recognition. Without these dedicated people, the next generation of sporting 'heroes' would have nowhere to go!

    John Ho.

  • Comment number 58.

    #52 Liddell was an Olympic Gold medallist - does that not qualify him to be a sporting hero? He was also a bronze medallist at the same games. How many medals does a person need before they qualify to become a sporting hero in your book?

    I wonder if you're letting religious bias and an anti-Scottish attitude to cloud your judgement...

    Reg Hollis

  • Comment number 59.

    Hello Dan,i really appreciate your work and specially the way u present it. I am from Bangladesh and deeply in love with the beautiful game. As I am young i do not have too much of knowledge about football on the history side specially but whenever i get a chance i really go crazy searching for stuff that i find interesting wherever possible.

    I would like to know the thoughts of the Great Eric Cantona on Arsenal player Robin Van Persie.

  • Comment number 60.

    sorry lads just checked, it wasnt.

    or was it?


    oh and dan, I neglected to address you directly.

    hello dan


    Carmen

  • Comment number 61.

    #58
    Not at all, it's purely based on the fact that after being selected to represent his country, he accepted knowing that he would refuse to run when the time came. If it was such a big deal for him, he should have declined and allowed someone else to participate as our representative, and not used the occasion to try to promote his extreme religious views.

    Doesn't matter how many medals he won, refusing to represent your country at the last minute is hugely disrespectful.
    NOT a sporting hero

  • Comment number 62.

    #58
    AND....
    Winning medals doesn't necessarily qualify you to be a hero. The way you conduct yourdelf is far more important. The bloke was a disgrace and should have been sent home, and had his other medals taken away

  • Comment number 63.

    62. So anyone who refused to tour South Africa during apartheid would be deemed as unsuitable for sporting hero status? Interesting view that I just can't agree with.

  • Comment number 64.

    Very good. Had never head of Fujimoto.

    A few favourites:

    Dynamo Kiev 'Death Match' team (the book Dynamo is highly recommended)
    Haile Gebrselassie
    Michael Johnson
    Mike Gibson
    Jason McElwain - not exactly an elite athlete, but good story
    Kevin O'Brien ;-)

  • Comment number 65.

    #62
    You've missed the point entirely.
    I would applaud anyone who refused to tour SA in that era.
    Eric Liddell accepted the invitation to compete as our representative KNOWING that he would refuse at the last minute ! Why ?
    Why not graciously decline after he realised that the heats would be on a Sunday ?
    He knew this 3 months in advance, more than enough time to put someone else in the team.
    If he had refused to go to Paris on religious grounds, then I could accept that. But to go pretending that he would compete, and then not do so, is not acceptable.

  • Comment number 66.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8vnfUrXcdk

    Dark days for Sheffield Wednesday I think!

    Andy Booth

  • Comment number 67.

    I've got a few more personal favourites outside of Football.

    Ayrton Senna - Most talented F1 driver ever. His death was a terrible tragedy and robbed us all of some great battles he could have had with another great Michael Schumacher.

    Curtly Ambrose - Fantastic action. Huge smile then he would bowl a 90 mile an hour bouncer or yorker! Along with Courtney Walsh I can remember him destroying batting line ups.

    Michael Johnson - When he broke the 200 metre record, people were open mouthed in astonishment that anyone can run that fast! Fantastic upright running style.

    Pete Sampras - A machine. That second serve was unrivalled. I can remember one Wimbledon final where he beat Agassi in 3 sets and the commentator said 'he will be walking on water next' after one point won with a spectacular diving shot. You almost believed that he could at that point!

    Chris Eubank - Very clever in setting himself up as the pantomine bad guy. Fantastic boxer at his peak as well.

    Jean Van de Velde - No way near the talent of the athletes above, but to be able to think of his Open moment and still laugh all these years later is something very special. I have never laughed so much at a bit of sporting insanity as I did when he went for a paddle at the Open! Such a shame that he did not win!

  • Comment number 68.

    Sporting Heroes for me are:

    Paavo Nurmi - Won 9 golds on the track, including 5 at the 1924 Olympics 2 of which were the 1500M and the 5000M which were only run 26 minutes apart.

    Emil Zatopek - Won the 5000M the 10000M and the Marathon at the 1952 Olympics.

    Valentino Rossi - Has so far won 9 World Championships, including 7 in the big class and also more charisma in his little finger than most other sportspeople which is strange that he always gets overlooked for Foreign Sports Personality of the Year.

  • Comment number 69.

    #61 Being that you said you looked at Wikipedia, and being that you appear to have at least partially read my previous post, why have you continued to ignore a particularly pertinent part of the entry for Liddell?

    Let me help you once again...

    A devout Christian, Liddell refused to run in a heat held on Sunday (the Christian Sabbath) and was forced to withdraw from the 100-metres race, his best event. The schedule had been published several months earlier, and his decision was made well before the Games. Liddell spent the intervening months training for the 400 metres, an event in which he had previously excelled. Even so, his success in the 400m was largely unexpected.

    Please note the sentence that says the decision was made well before the games. Now, don't you think this renders what you've written incorrect? One valid point you make is that medals don't necessarily make you a hero, but you are incorrect to make out that his character means it's impossible for him to be considered a hero. You are utterly wrong based on all available evidence.

    He also did compete, just not in the same event as Harold Abrahams.

    To quote your good self... you've missed the point entirely.

    Sherlock Holmes

  • Comment number 70.

    #7
    just to put to bed the rather dull myth that Cantona never did it for United in Europe or for France - 20 goals in 45 appearances for (at the time) an ordinary France team which for a player who was never an out an out striker is very impressive, he would have had more caps if it wasn't for disputes with the authorities.
    Also Cantona very rarely played for United in Europe due to the ridiculous foreigners rule at the time (even Giggs, McClair, Hughes were considered foreigners!) which was only lifted in 1996, therefore Cantona only had one full season playing in the champions league, i remember one performance in particular where he destroyed Porto in a 4-0 win who at the time were amongst the most feared teams in Europe.

  • Comment number 71.

    65. As stated above he knew 6 months before that it was a Sunday so hardly last minute and represented his country in another event (which he picked up a gold in). His country was still represented in the event (gold again). Surely his actions resulted in his country picking up an additional gold?

    Choosing his faith above a sport does not lower his achivement and I can see why he's held in such high esteem. If you also think he didn't have the courage to race the 100m why would he race the 400m?

  • Comment number 72.

    Sorry everyone... been in meetings and stuff today. I will attend to your comments in a mo.

    Mo Farah

  • Comment number 73.

    The Duke of Edinburgh actually has a bit of football management experience!

    He was president of the National Playing fields Association and the celebrity football team Goaldiggers raised money for that charity. Prince Philip was "coach" of the side which included people such as Elton John, Michael Parkinson, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Greaves, Jimmy Hill and Eric Morecambe, who would act as linesman!

    Dan - I suspect he tests the mettle of people on first meeting and he would have been up for a spot on Focus. His thoughts on managing that lot would have been very interesting!

  • Comment number 74.

    #61 redrobbo,
    Good to read you several posts regarding Eric Lidell. I am glad that the moderators did not 'filter out' your remarks regarding race and religion. OK I was some what surprised that the BEEB allowed you to say that you black marked a person because of their race and then their religion, especially since they appear to screen out other far more innocuous stuff.
    Surrey bloke in # 69 quite correctly exposes your 'modifications' of historical event as you recast the 1924 Olympics.
    I remember one athiest historian saying it was always best to start with the 'revisions' of events that were presented by eyewitnesses, rather than the 'revisions' of those who came generations later. (And perhaps only read wikipedia???).

    Rather than using Warner Brothers' "Chariot's of Fire: The Events according to Hollywood" or wikipedia, it might be more prudent to go with the 'take' or perception of the American team physio, (I believe he was a physio and not masseur as WKP page states) -after all he was present at the Paris Olympics.
    But that is just my opinion- other people's opinion is to black mark people because they are Scottish and because they follow an ancient faith.

  • Comment number 75.

    Sporting heroes....Cantona(can't wait for interview), Ali, and from the world of Kung Fu....obviously Elvis.

  • Comment number 76.

    Sporting Heroes: -

    Carl Lewis
    Jesse Owen
    Michael Jordan
    Ayrton Senna
    Ryan Giggs

  • Comment number 77.

    Sorry forgot to add my sporting hero. Uwe Fuchs. While on loan shot the Boro up to the Premiership in Robbo's first season with some important goals and did a funnier version of Klinsmann's dive celebration. I miss the optimism of those times!

  • Comment number 78.

    Good blog. It was interesting to hear about your sporting heroes. Didn`t Eric Liddel become a missionary to China after he retired from athletics? What a role model he was. Could do with many more like hime today in the sporting world. Money was not his inspiration, yet he wanted to win, but not at any cost. Respect to him. And God used him to touch many lives too.

    Cantona...great player. As a Liverpool fan, he was a thorn in the flesh to us, but he was good. Not great on PR with Palace fans though. Loved his seagull rant. NOT a good actor, but seems a bit humourous, and philisophical at the same time.

    #38 I assume you sign off as Thomas Paine because you are not a monarchist. Paine was born in the town of Thetford, Norfolk (where I grew up), and went on to play a part in the French and American revolutions. He is accreditted with giving america the name `the united states of america`.

    I am not a big fan of Prince Philip, or Prince Charles. Try typing in `Prince Charles 666` in google and see what comes up! Very interesting, to say the least!

    Keep up the good work Dan! I live outside the UK, so never get to see Focus nowadays, but I always check out the online Friday Focus and Focus Forum. IMO you`re a great journalist and presenter, who is one of the lads and a fan of the game all rolled into one. And not a bad player too, from what we`ve seen at times.

    My sporting heroes:

    Kenny Dalglish: The best player in Britain in his time. I was so gutted that I played with my right foot, as Dalglish played with his left.

    Steve Ovett: Not as popular as Coe, but more down to earth, and he ran the same events as I did at school, and inspired me in my running.

    Steve Davis/Henry: Yes, both of them. Made snooker look easy. Inspired a whole generation to go out and play the game.

    Miguel Indurain

  • Comment number 79.

    I don`t mean that Ovett and I ran in the same events together by the way:)

  • Comment number 80.

    Will you be putting the whole interview on Saturday? If you don't you should upload the interview to the site like you did with Rafa's a few weeks ago

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hello there,

    Here we go then. Let's see what we've got here.

    G-unite #5 I was not my intention to represent him like that. He actually came across very well and spent a long time talking to people (Mistake 5)

    Skybluesat #6 Interesting take on things there chief

    Barnes B 25 #9 Off with your head!

    SouthernFairy #10 all factually correct big man. I checked it with the FBI (that last bit I did make up)

    Bigglesof266 #15 Amen to that my friend

    Corpusboy #16 The plan is to put the full interview on next week's blog

    Rob-K #23 that is a proper tale… lovely stuff

    Vincent B Rodriguez #26 best sign off so far

    Blogcritic #30 the finest there has ever been my friend

    JAF_Attack #33 The Tashkent Terror was a legend!

    Neiljwhiteshouse #35 He was great wasn't he. The complete lack of 20 20 vision also added to the magic.

    Scilletts #40 point 2… 100% correct. It was a compliment.

    Surreybloke123 #43 what did 37 say about Mr Liddell? I missed it before the mods got him.

    Andy Connor #45 good work partner

    Hold on back in a mo.

    Buster Douglas

  • Comment number 83.

    #82 Dan

    In summary, whilst trying to avoid censure, is that post #37 commented on Eric's nationality and alledged "book bashing" were both reasons to dislike him. Also, that his behaviour in supposedly backing out of the 100m qualification because of the day of the week that it took place place on at apparently the last moment, means that he was basically a fairly reprehensible character not worthy of any admiration.

    It lasted quite a while before it was withdrawn, so quite a bit of consideration must have taken place.

    Bruce Lee

  • Comment number 84.

    78. At 17:43pm on 3rd Mar 2011, Robokopthe3rd wrote:

    #38 I assume you sign off as Thomas Paine because you are not a monarchist. Paine was born in the town of Thetford, Norfolk (where I grew up), and went on to play a part in the French and American revolutions. He is accreditted with giving america the name `the united states of america`.

    ______________________________________________________
    A man of many skills.

    The Mark Steel lecture about Paine.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfRIIM9cRQc

    (That gives you part one.Follow the links on the right to get the rest)

  • Comment number 85.

    Back again…

    MCCOURT_THE_LEGEND #46 I have honestly not enjoyed an interview as much as the Cantona. He really made me work for it. Let me know what you think after you've watched it.

    Redrobbo (various) you were doing really well until you called me Jake. I'm the other one - although I will take it as a comliment. I think your comment #49 indicates clearly where you are coming from. I think you are allowing your bias and prejudice to cloud your judgement. You might be able to point the same finger at me but I challenge you to read the accounts of how he acted in the POW camp and not admire his humanity. On top of that - he wasn't half quick!

    Judging by some of the other comments on here you are clearly standing alone on that little island of yours.

    Blogcritic #50 I think you can

    Scott John #56 Sheedy had one of THE great left feet.

    Martymufc LUHG #57 well said

    Poet11 #59 thanks for the kind words chief. You'll have to wait for Cantona on Van Persie… maybe I can ask him that next time.

    Clubnick13 #68 some beauties there… Valentino Rossi well worth a mention for pure domination.

    Covgray #73 if only I'd known that beforehand

    Robokopthe3rd #79 Thanks. I should say the magic of television can make anyone look half decent at the beautiful game.

    Puzza #80 that's the plan chief. Check out next week's blog.

    Thanks for all the comments everyone. I hope you enjoy listening to Cantona. There will be some available on the website tomorrow morning before you can watch the whole thing on Focus on Saturday.

    Keep them coming.

    Harold Abrahams

  • Comment number 86.

    Dan.
    You were dutifully respectful to Rafa. But don't you do any research before interviews? Check transferleague.com for the amount spent by Rafa in the period 2004-10 and you will find it was something over £100 million net - nearly £40 million net in season 07/08 alone. He started building a team from a relatively strong base in 04; he ended with an inferior team in 2010. Over the same period Man United spent just over £20 million net (albeit with a whopping £80 million from the sale of Ronaldo). That may not be the story Rafa wishes to tell; I suppose if you want him to come back, you must humour him.

  • Comment number 87.

    Dan. Eric's old boss is in the news yet again. Sir Alex is in trouble for his comments about officials after the recent Chelsea game. Whilst I'm going to sit on the fence about Alex and his comments, doesn't this affair present an ideal OPPORTUNITY to really try and sort out the inadequacies, inconsistencies and often bad mistakes made by officials during Premiership games. This season is the worst so far and, in my opinion, the general standard of refereeing is in decline. Probably, the worst (and most unfair) factor is inconsistency - sit down round the table and find a solution, please, before next season gets underway. Dan, how many inconsistencies can you highlight from a sample of the last four weeks' Premier programme?

  • Comment number 88.

    "There are some footballers who give you the impression that they are deep thinkers..."

    Really?!

    I can think of one footballer who considers himself a deep thinker and that is David James, and that is hilarious enough! Most struggle to string a coherent sentence together.

    Clarke Carlisle is clever but even then would he consider himself a deep thinker? I doubt it.

    The DofE and the Royals in general - I.JUST.DON'T.GET.IT - Such pre-historic notions of 'blueblood' and of being chosen by a higher power to rule. Utterly pointless institution. That Harry though, what a lad!! Weird how he looks like James Hewitt and is ginger....I'll leave it there..

    http://rah140.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 89.


    Seagulls and trawlers? Keep it simple Eric, like Long pecks the crow before it blunts it's beak or Too many bananas bend the tree

  • Comment number 90.

    "Even if you have very little time for Cantona............"

    What an odd comment. Presumably it's directed at the odd Crystal Palace bone-head and his clones.

    In this age of greedy, overpaid, self-serving footballers, how can anyone who cares about the beautiful game "have very little time for Cantona". A great footballer and a humble and decent man.

    Keep following the trawler, Dan.

  • Comment number 91.

    My hero, Tommy Cooper.

    Waiting in line to meet the Queen after a Royal Variety Performance. The Queen is introduced to Tommy;

    Queen - how do you do (or something like that)
    Tommy - Do you like football?
    Queen - not particularly
    Tommy - Well can I have your tickets for the cup final then?

    Batistuta, good striker but my opinion of him as a bloke went down after the '98 world cup, he was the idiot standing next to the ref nodding his approval after Simeone had sucked Beckham in to a red card.



  • Comment number 92.

    Sporting hero? The one and only.... Kevin Kilbane.

    Hardly the most skillful player ever, never set the football world alight but a player who's all heart and gives his all every game.

    And if Kevin can become Irelands 2nd most capped player of all time then there may be hope for some of us yet ;)

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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