When Eric Cantona of Manchester United did his amazing Kung-fu kick on an obnoxious Crystal Palace supporter seventeen years ago this month, I was there. By chance I was also an eye-witness thirty-five years earlier when United’s goalkeeper Harry Gregg spectacularly whacked a spectator at Luton Town in April, 1960, knocking him to the ground. That coincidence meant I was in a strong position as a BBC head of department in 1995 to point out very forcibly to colleagues in News and Sport that the media feeding-frenzy alleging that what Eric had done was ‘unprecedented’ was completely wrong. I repeatedly pointed out that while Cantona faced an eight-month ban, amidst calls that it should be for life, Gregg wasn’t punished at all, he just got a private rollicking from manager Matt Busby.

What I didn’t know at that time was that there was actually another precedent for the Selhurst Park assault, which happened exactly one hundred years ago this month…

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