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Focus turns to King Eric

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Dan Walker | 12:11 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I am writing this week's blog on my way back from Birmingham. There are two blokes across the carriage talking about dull spreadsheets, a girl snoring like a beast in front and a man behind eating, what smells like, a mouldy fish sandwich.

I feel quite strongly that some food should be banned from all public transport. Mackerel is one of them and whatever he is eating is another.

I just wanted to say thanks for all your comments about the Rafael Benitez blog and full-length interview last week. There was some good healthy debate going on with plenty of strong opinions either way. I'm glad you appreciated the 25-minute interview and we'll try to do that in the future when it's warranted.

Anyway, I have been in Birmingham to present the Midlands version of Late Kick Off. I think the programme has really strengthened the BBC's football coverage - particularly if your team operate outside the Premier League.

Robbie Savage was on the sofa - which is far more comfortable than the one we use on Focus - along with Lee Camp, who seems like a nice bloke in addition to being a tidy keeper. Nottingham Forest fans may need to revise their cries of "England's Number One" given the 26-year-old looks set to play for Northern Ireland.

We've got another busy week ahead. I'm off to New York to interview Eric Cantona for a BBC documentary. The last time I saw him was at a testimonial bash for Ryan Giggs a few years ago. It was held at a swanky club in the heart of Manchester. All the players were there - past and present - but more importantly there were plate loads of chicken kebabs with a choice of satay or sweet chilli dip... I can still picture those goodies now.

ericc595.jpgCantona in his pomp at Manchester United. Photo: Getty Images

Cantona turned up about two hours after everyone else. It was a perfect example of someone holding court and I counted three rings of people around him. The innermost circle was a collection of players and gorgeous young ladies. They were hanging on every word that came out of his mouth. There weren't that many of them because the Frenchman seemed be working his way through Cuba's entire cigar reserve.

The middle circle was populated by hangers-on... those who laughed at everything Cantona said even though they couldn't hear what he was saying and only wanted to be there so they could tell their friends they had been close to him.

I was in the outer circle or fringe. Those of us gathered here either weren't cool enough to enter the inner circles or were quite happy to watch the bizarre worship unfold from this vantage point as we quaffed chicken kebabs.

Cantona is a fascinating character for so many reasons. The kung fu kick at Crystal Palace has gone down in history, while his quote about seagulls and that trawler is also legendary. Manchester United fans hold him in the highest possible regard, Leeds supporters wonder why he said he loved them and left, while those whose allegiance is to Sheffield Wednesday dream about what might have been.

I used to work in an office with a Manchester United fan who had a bit of a Cantona obsession going on. He was great fun most of the time but only if you followed his rules of never saying anything bad about the Frenchman.

We were once throwing darts in his office and a stray effort of mine glided beyond the legal boundaries and firmly into the face of his prized picture of the big man. I tried my best to laugh it off but Tony was not happy. I was asked to leave the room while he grieved and later received a life-long ban from office darts via email.

Well, whether you share such an obsession with Cantona or are just watching from the 'fringe' this is your chance to ask Cantona a question. We should have a good amount of time with him to chat about his involvement with New York Cosmos but there is plenty of other stuff to talk about, so fire away.

If you want to follow the build-up to this week's show - and check out some Cantona in New York stuff - the best place to go is


  • Comment number 1.

    food that should be banned from public transport includes any variety of crisp. by far the noisiest snack. the whole rustle and munch aspect is awful.

    good blog as ever and whilst your in new york may i recommend Sbarro pizza - the best pizza in NYC

  • Comment number 2.

    Agree with WorldCupWillie, Crisps should definitely be banned, especially when the person eating them can't keep their mouth shut, so not only can you hear what they are eating, you can see what is making the noise.

    Great Blog though.

  • Comment number 3.

    Love him or loathe him Cantona is a legend!!!

    His chipped goal against Sunderland is by far my favourite Premiership moment of all time.

    Its funny how some of the most controversial players have given some of the best moments - see Di Canio's hitch kick as a prime example.

    As for food on public transport.........I'd ban it all! Although I struggle to enter into any debate in which potato or corn based snacks are the baddie!

    Henry's Cat

  • Comment number 4.

    The food rule sounds not dissimilar to that which Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode have for when you visit the cinema - arguably an even worse place to consume almost any food than the train.

    I don't understand why so many people seemed unable to understand what Cantona was on about with his trawler and seagulls monologue. In view of the background to the press conference and the size of the media storm, it wasn't that difficult to comprehend.

    He was certainly a highly skilled player, it's easy to forget just how long ago he was playing now.

    Prince Vultan

  • Comment number 5.

    Nice blog Dan! In my opinion Cantona can do no wrong (with exception to the infamous night at Selhurst Park in January 1995). Have you ever seen Looking for Eric? Not only a fantastic footballer but also a credible actor.

  • Comment number 6.

    bit hard to ban food at the pictures as that is how cinemas make their cash really. As for transport well I like to eat sometimes when I'm travelling but would ban anything excessively smelly.

    Cantona is probably the greatest talent I have ever seen. His skill, arrogance and ability to dominate and change games was peerless. More influential than Keane, Giggs or anyone else but also very volatile. I would say the 1996 double winning team with him in it was Utd's best ever


    Best team ever

  • Comment number 7.

    Nice blog Dan, good to see you "repping" for the Midlands as well! Thought at first it looked like Lee Camp was either incredibly uncomfortable being on TV, or he needed a huge poo. Seemed to get more at ease as the programme went on so I can only assume it was the latter...

    Anyway, Cantona gave so many great memories to me and fellow Man Utd fans. I think one of my favourite goals was against Arsenal in 95/96 season, he chested the ball down about 25 yards out, let it bounce, then smacked it, just looped over Seaman and off the bar if I remember right. Brilliant.

    Then of course there is the chip DDSmart mentioned, along with so many others. He retired too early I think, I remember being completely gutted when he did, 11 years old playing in my mates back garden (Not a euphemism) when his dad told us. We battled over who was Cantona for the rest of the day!

    On food banned on public transport, I know technically its not food, but chewing gum that isn't put in a bin but stuck on seats. It's disgusting, nothing more grim than putting your hand or sitting down on someone else's used gum.

    Joe Jordan

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry correction forgot keano


    Best team ever

  • Comment number 9.

    Must have been one hell of a team...winning the double with only 9 players...

    Sorry, couldn't resist (Keane and Bruce missing I assume?)!

    Good blog Daniel, Cantona was a legend and a great player for English football.

    Any smelly food should be banned from public transport. Just don't take away my wine gums!!

    Benito Carbone

  • Comment number 10.

    Would Eric consider going into coaching or even management at some level of the game. I know the perfect option for him, if he was to do so, may be Man Utd but does it even interest him?

  • Comment number 11.

    Mr Dan Walker -
    foods to ban on public transport should include anything with onions, for sure!
    [Also, on trains – feet off the opposite seats, lack of manners].

    Keep up the good work on the interesting blog.

  • Comment number 12.

    @10 I think he managed the French beach football team for a while!

    King Cantona is the reason I fell in love with football! The man is a legend it's good to see him involved with the sport again!

    I agree with DDsmart too, that chip against Sunderland was sublime, and the celebration was equally as impressive! But my favourite Cantona goal was the FA Cup final winner against Liverpool in 1996! What a strike!

  • Comment number 13.

    He had what you might call a stop-start career before he came to England. What was it about playing in England and especially at United that agreed with him compared to his career in France?

  • Comment number 14.

    There was something special about Cantona , my favourite player of all time . When he played the whole team played better just because he was in it. I think cantona , henry and ronaldo are the 3 greatest players the premiership has seen.

  • Comment number 15.

    Dan - really good blog again, the personal touch you add is great compared to other beeb bloggers.

    Ask Eric if he'd fancy a go at managing United.

    I reckon he'd either be brilliant or so out there the whole thing would be a circus. I can't imagine many fans would object to finding out though.

    Thinking about United teams containing the King I always preferred the 1994 team to 1996. As great as the kids Beckham, Scholes et al became there was something about that 94 side with Hughes, Ince and Kanchelskis that really inspired me as a kid.

    Favourite Eric goal is probably a volley he scored in the FA Cup against Wimbledon. The team performance that day was exceptional but that was a goal of sensational quality.

  • Comment number 16.

    What a hero the man is and was.... a lesson for any wannabee glory boy's in the importance of getting the job done on a regular basis as well

    a good blog again Dan... and I guess i'd like to know if, in the age of players like Giggs and Scholes running on rechargeable batteries, whether Eric regrets retiring so early

    look forward to seeing the interview

  • Comment number 17.

    Here in New York & surrounding region I haven't seen that many people eating food on public transport. I was eating a Big Mac on the train to New York once, I remember getting quite a few stares. As you noted in your Klinsman interview blog, the burgers are bigger over here, and thus messier to eat when 'on the move'.
    I would appreciate it if you could ask (and relay response) Cantona two questions that are connect4ed to one another:
    First, Setting aside the off-pitch problems, which the French national team experienced in SA, how would King Eric have rallied them on the pitch so they were not 0-4 and kicked out.
    Secondly: (and more difficult to ask)
    "Are Messieurs Anelka and Evra dummy-spitting whimps who simply need to develop the testicular fortitude of Kelly Holmes, Denise Richards or the Williams sisters?"

    By the way on a recent return to Blighty (horrid travel) I tried to comment on your Benitez blog, but my computer firewall had issues. IT WASS A GREAT BLOG- WELL WORTHY OF THE 240+RESPONSES! As an informal piece of sports journalism it was up there with your Bradford Fire blog, both top drawer productions. Thought some of the responders got so involved they lost all objectivity and grip on factuality, but that is part of life in the blogosphere.

    Press on Mr W.

    P.S. I would be interested to have you critique the films available on you up coming transatlantic flight. On my flight back to NY (last week) I watched Salt and Wall Street: Money never sleeps. We had an unusually long flight as we were diverted to a Canadian AFB due to a medical emergency. Salt gets an 8/10 & Wall Street 6/10.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ask him if he swapped shirts with John Moncur after he was sent off for stamping on him at the County Ground in 1994. Strangely, Mark Hughes got a slap in the mouth from someone in the crowd that day but he refrained from employing any martial art-style retribution.

    Eric Nixon

  • Comment number 19.

    Excellent blog, really shows why Cantona is considered such an enigma in the footballing world. As for the discussion of the goal against Sunderland... I was there! :) about 8 years old and in the corner of the ground where the ball ended up, so yeah, the chance to pose a question to a hero i dont think i could pass up!

    My question is: I've read Diego Maradona's very favourable comments about Cantona as a player and a man and it got me wondering, Who is Cantona's favourite ever player both off and on the pitch? as in, who does he really admire and look up to as a footballer and a man?

    Nice one ;)

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Dan,
    It would be great if you could ask Eric Cantona what his thoughts were when Trevor Francis refused to sign him until he'd seen him play on grass.
    I saw Cantona appear for Sheffield Wednesday wearing the blue & white stripes in an indoor footy tournament at the arena in Sheffield. I remember the snow on the ground outside. If the weather had been different then the recent history of SWFC may well have been different. The mind boggles!

    Brian Murphy

  • Comment number 21.

    Dan, I agree, Mackerel is too pungent for public eating but delish on toast with lashings of Hendo's after a few beverages.

    Yootha Joice

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Dan, you lucky beggar!

    My question for Eric would be:

    When Sir Alex Ferguson flew out to persuade you to stay at Manchester United, what was it that he said that convinced you to return to Manchester? Do you still hold a love for Sir Alex for standing by you when others had walked away?

  • Comment number 23.

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

  • Comment number 24.

    Also, on the subject of eating fish, I don't eat it because it smells of fish!

  • Comment number 25.

    It's not like he wasn't warned,

    He rang me three times and I said, don't put it directly on the skin. But hey why listen to me if your cockatoo is egging you on!


    Anyway aside from that, what was in that cake! I mean I've felt.....

    Hang on





    Sorry about that

    Yeah so what was I saying, oh yeah, tangy!

    Dan, loving the face, keep it up.

    Earthworm Jim

  • Comment number 26.

    Top work guys! Cantona brings out an opinion in everyone - even my Australian, non-football-liking girlfriend who reckons he's way more attractive than David Beckham....

    Anyway! Dan, could you ask Eric this philosophical question:

    If there was a Scotsman, and Portugese and a Frenchman in a room and the Scotsman was interviewing the Portugese and the Frenchman for a job, if the Portugese fell under a tram, would anyone miss his charisma?

  • Comment number 27.

    Not everyone... my mum wouldn't have the foggiest idea who he is.

    Have you seen someone for your clock blindness? Sounds like you'll be making a lot of calls to the speaking clock in future!

    The Arsenal match last night was exhilerating, lets hope all the English teams can progress to the next round! The final at Wembley will be a big prize.

    Lara Croft

  • Comment number 28.

    As much as it pains me to admit it, there is no way that Cantona would have become the player he did if he had remained at Leeds. Old Trafford and the team that Fergie had built was the perfect place for him to show of his talents.

    What still has me shaking my head nearly 20 years on is the pittance of a fee we got for him. £1.2m has to be the bargain of any century.

    If anything tells you that Wilkinson hadn't a clue of the talent he had on his hands it was the amount he let him go for.

    Clearly the bloke had a few issues (the kung-fu kick etc), but with such enormous natural talent, you often find that is the case (Maradona, Zidane...) but surely you would put up with just about anything and build a team around him like Fergie did.

    £1.2m.... dear oh dear....

    Norman Stanley Fletcher

  • Comment number 29.

    Salut, Dan

    Great blog. Commuters on the Airedale line saw a terrific food faux pas on the Friday 23:15 about ten years ago as this girl was lying in the middle of the carriageway mouth wide open clamped to a Fillet-o-Fish, despite being asleep. My Father-in-Law shudders at the re-telling of the story every time.....

    A question for Eric:
    In the spirit of Marcel Proust's great novel A la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time), can you ask Eric what legacy he is hoping to leave in the Stateside world of football, in light of his association with the New York Cosmos (Director of Football)?

    Of course, that is not to suggest that his legacy is not huge already. He was my favourite player in the 90s and I was lucky enough to go to the opening screening of 'Looking For Eric' in Bath, where Ken Loach, Eric and Steve Evetts where there for a Q&A session afterwards.

    The following night, I was interested to see that Eric was using the same trainers for his appearance on the Jonathan Ross show. He clearly thinks about his global footprint and tries to travel as lightly as possible - which makes his stock rise even further in my book. I hear he lived very modestly when he was playing the lead role at the Theatre of Dreams. No doubt he is now bookmarking for tips on how to live lightly....

    Bon chance....

  • Comment number 30.


    I went to see a specialist but turns out my condition is rather broad in it's effect.

    The doctor was a grandfather so couldn't make him out!

    Troy the builder

  • Comment number 31.

    Got run over by a carriage the other week, never saw it coming!

  • Comment number 32.

    When bird spotting at weekend, complete waste of time! Kept missing some bird which chirped hourly

  • Comment number 33.

    Nice girl crossed the road outside my cavern, all I saw was a floating head, it scared me somewhat, a woman with no body

    It was like that camping trip all over again

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Dan,
    New York with the King! That's a better gig than the Wirral with the excuse maker...Ask Eric does he still stand by his analysis of Didier Deschamps as a "water carrier", what did he make of the French debacle at the World Cup, and who would he love to sign for the Cosmos?

  • Comment number 35.

    I would love to hear Eric's perception of the difference between Leeds and Manchester United. How did he feel about Wilkinson offloading him after one season?

    By the way, how do you 'quaff' a kebab? Wouldn't you have to liquidise it first?? (That's not a question for Eric).

  • Comment number 36.

    This blog has died this week as I don't think it appeared on the front sports page, or even the front football page because of all the other's being published. I think there would have been quite a few comments if it had had its usual prominence.

    Michael Finnegan

  • Comment number 37.

    Surrey Bloke (#36) & Andy Connor (#30ff)
    The blog appeared on the sports page of the international version of until today, same for football page. Do either of you guys think that the crazier our entries are the more the blog flounders, or the more it succeeds.
    Mr. Andy Connor, you are a remarkable man!

  • Comment number 38.

    I suppose someone has to do it Dan, enjoy.
    No crisps in public, bar maybe your own.
    The big man was an absolute genius, with the swagger to match... Awesome.
    Could he be a manager one day? Perhaps at OT?
    Smokin' Joe Jordan

  • Comment number 39.

    #37 blaenorynyclwyd
    Well in two of the last three weeks the blog has enjoyed a very high level of response so (reverting to 20 year old A Level history essay writing format) it's too soon to tell whether this is part of an on-going trend, or merely a false dawn.

    Andy Connor is indeed remarkable though.

    Cricket and other football blogs have been more prominent this week on the UK BBC site, so I guess not many correspondants enter via the international version.

    Incey Wincey Spider

  • Comment number 40.

    Just ask him if he fancies a pint. If so, come see us in whitehaven! And, give him my personal thanks for hitting some turkish guy after spitting on simon davies in uniteds 4-0 win back in 97 over galatasaray. Just waited till the referee wasnt looking and clocked him on the back of the bonce. swift retribution i say. Tell him i said thanks for that, was in the crowd for it as a 9 year old and laughed my head off.....

  • Comment number 41.

    When I read your blog and saw Lee Camp, I just assumed you were talking about Lee Dixon....

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm more concerned about some of the people on public transport rather than the food they're consuming. As for a question to ask the great man I'd like to know what he thought was his best game in a United shirt and why?

  • Comment number 43.

    PetShopBoys_Forever - Can you count? You start with nine players, realize your mistake and still only put 10 players in. You've missed out Bruce.

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    Great blog Dan. Cantona was/is/and always will be one of the greatest talents to play in England.

    As for eating on the train, i feel it is perfectly acceptable at all times apart from 4.30pm - 6.00pm on weekdays. I am vastly more offended by people sleeping on trains. Dribbling and snoring there way back home, twice in recent months I have seen someone awake with a start and a massive bit of spittal fly out of there mouths. If your that tired, start going to bed earlier.

  • Comment number 46.

    No offense, but Sbarro pizza is not really that good. It is a mediocre chain of restaurants across America. For fabulous pizza, please visit Patsy's. Really amazing. Looking forward to the documentary on Cantona.

  • Comment number 47.

    Nice blog, good to see that you get all the tough gigs, trip to New York, meeting Eric Cantona etc. Dirty job but someone has to do it ;-).

    How about asking Mr Cantona what he felt United lacked in Europe during his time at Old Trafford. Why couldn't United win the European Cup in spite of being so dominant on the domestic scene?

  • Comment number 48.

    Question for Eric The Legend
    You spent many years playing at the highest level and achieved many great things. What is your single most fondest memory?

  • Comment number 49.

    Loved the part about the darts game, Dan - Tony sounds like a darned good fella.

    Two-part question for Le Dieu:

    What exactly is your role at the Cosmos, and can you see a cross-Atlantic partnership developing between Manchester United and the Cosmos, possibly in a feeder club capacity?

    Merci, monsieur.

  • Comment number 50.

    cantona was magic.

    as was henry and gascoigne.

    some players are just a different league

  • Comment number 51.


    Sorry, I know someone has pointed it out already but I do dearly love your 3-3-2 and 3-4-2 formations.

    When Fergie does eventually retire you should definitely hand in your CV. Then again that team was so good it would still have competed with 9 and 10 players.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hi Dan,
    Could you ask Eric one of these questions :

    1)If things work out for him in the Cosmos, would he eventually consider a return to Old Trafford and if so what position would he prefer to be offered ?

    I don't believe Eric would want to return to Old Trafford unless he was certain he could be successful.

    2) Will you be making any outlandish TV commercials for that famous Sports company and the2012 European Championships ?


  • Comment number 53.

    There's so much I want to ask Eric; but really all you need to do is let the man speak and it will be a great interview.

    I'd love to hear Eric's thoughts on everything that has happened at Man United since he left. I realise that's quite a lot!

    More than anything, I would love it if you would thank him on behalf of all Man United fans. Just thank him for everything.

  • Comment number 54.

    1. At 14:36pm on 16th Feb 2011, WorldCupWillie wrote:
    food that should be banned from public transport includes any variety of crisp. by far the noisiest snack. the whole rustle and munch aspect is awful.

    Er, don't tell me what to do. If I want to eat on the train, I will.

    New Yorkers. So bossy, so arrogant, so 'think they're always right'.


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