This morning, ahead of United’s game against Crystal Palace, Phil Neville posted a picture of Eric Cantona on Instagram. What’s the link? Cantona attacked a Palace fan who verbally abused him, calling him a “motherfucker” and telling him to “fuck off back to France”.
Turns out Simmons had been on BNP and National Front rallies, and had attacked Sri Lankan-born Lewis Rajanayagam with a three-foot spanner. Simmons had his Palace season ticket taken off him and he was banned from Selhurst Park. At the resulting court case for his abuse of Cantona, he attacked the prosecution counsel after being found guilty, leapt over a bench and executed a flying kick of his own. He later attacked his son’s football coach.
When Cantona has reflected back on his career, the man who was the catalyst for United’s success in the 1990s and the inspiration for the young players who won the Treble in 1999, Cantona said: “I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer is when I kicked the hooligan.”
When United returned to Selhurst Park in 2005, the fans showed up in Cantona masks to mark the occasion, but were ejected from the ground. Palace announced yesterday that fans should expect the same treatment today.
Three months after Cantona kicked that hooligan and whilst he was serving his ban, United played Palace again. A Palace supporter, 35-year-old Paul Nixon, died during an outbreak of violence at a pub eight miles away from Villa Park before the FA Cup semi-final between the two clubs.
It might surprise you to learn that Palace fans are linking United fans wearing Cantona masks with the death of this fan.
A Palace fanzine, Five Year Plan, voiced its disdain over the plans to wear the mask, believing it was in celebration of Nixon’s death almost 19 years ago, tweeting: “Celebrating the death of an innocent football fan? P-a-r-t-y.”
The Mirror this morning has slammed Neville’s photo of Cantona, calling it “inflammatory” and “unsuitable” behaviour from a member of our coaching staff.