Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League (2021) s01e02 Episode Script

Episode 2

[commentator] Oh, what's going
on here? Cantona's getting
involved with supporters.
It's all got wildly out of hand.
It's just a statement, yeah?
-I've got a statement to make.
-And is that it? Can I ask
you questions after that?
-Yes, you can, yeah.
Is there a police statement
to make about tonight's events
involving Eric Cantona?
Only in as far as
we have received
two allegations of assault
from members of the public.
[reporter] Eric Cantona,
the darling
of Manchester United,
captain of France,
the players' own
Player of the Year,
tonight stands accused
of placing a stain
on the game of football.
If you want to be free,
I don't think you can accept
the role of example
or something like this,
because it's too much pressure.
The Football Association
has approved
controversial plans
to set up a new super league.
[commentator] And he goes. Oh!
When Murdoch wrote the cheque,
everyone said, "Poor old
Rupert's lost it this time."
How big it was gonna be,
I don't think anyone
could have predicted.
I would love it if we beat them.
Love it.
It's just all money. This club
is one big theme park now.
[man] Footballers became
sort of like rock stars.
I don't think anything
prepares you for media attention
at such a young age.
I've got a choice in life now.
I either go back to the booze
and the gambling and the drugs,
or I go the other way.
It's like a religion.
It's something to believe in.
And it's Pallister,
and it's in!
[Pallister] '92-'93, we won
the first Premier League trophy.
We'd done it.
[commentator] And that's
the moment Old Trafford
has been waiting for.
It was what you always imagined
doing, really, when you won the
title, was to lift that trophy.
-[stadium announcer]
Gary Pallister!
-[crowd cheers]
[Pallister] After that,
we went out and won the title
again the following year,
and that was because
the shackles were off.
[narrator] By the start of
the third Premier League season,
a new financial reality was
dawning on English football.
This is Manchester pudding.
Couldn't be better.
-[Alex Ferguson]
Absolutely superb.
-Thank you.
Manchester United had broken
the British transfer record
to sign Roy Keane
for nearly ú4 million.
The country's richest club
looked unstoppable.
United, in every sense,
were the club.
You know, look at the size
of the stadium, the fans,
the quality of the players.
They were the gold standard.
If you went to Old Trafford
and you lost 1-0 or 2-0,
you felt like
you'd had a result,
as stupid as that sounds,
because, you know, they could
take teams to the sword there
and you could get absolutely
battered, because they just
had phenomenal players.
[Parker] United had
won it two on the bounce,
and Sir Alex Ferguson wasn't
about just doing it once
and living off of that.
You're trying to
create a dynasty.
Alex Ferguson wanted
to dominate English football.
[narrator] Thirty miles north,
a less illustrious neighbour
had United in their sights.
Blackburn Rovers hadn't won
a top-division title since
before the First World War.
I think in Blackburn,
people belonged to the club
and the club belonged
to the people,
and the town needed a lift.
They lost a lot of the mills
and there was
a lot of unemployment.
But I think
there's always been football,
no matter what,
and it lifts people.
So, Jack Walker taking over,
we were all very grateful
that he'd bought the club.
Very grateful, and we knew that
we were going to go places.
[reporter] Steel magnate
Jack's money brought Blackburn
out of Division 1,
but a man whose personal wealth
is believed in excess of
300 million
articulates his motives
in simple words.
We needed a stadium,
we got a stadium.
We needed a squad,
we're getting a squad.
A bit to do yet.
I remember at the time that,
you know,
I was sent up to Blackburn
to do a piece about
what it means to the town,
and what it meant to the town
was absolutely huge.
Jack Walker wanted
to put Blackburn on the map.
He rebuilt Ewood Park,
in amongst all the terraced
houses of Blackburn.
It looked like
a spacecraft had arrived
in the middle of the town,
and in a sense, it had.
there was this glamour
that came with money.
They were able
to buy in players.
[narrator] Jack Walker had
already spent big since he took
control of Blackburn in 1991.
He'd surprised everyone
by luring legendary manager
Kenny Dalglish to the club.
[Harman] I think the appointment
of Kenny Dalglish as
the manager of Blackburn
was one of the more remarkable
moments of that period
of the Premier League.
[Shearer] Kenny Dalglish
was one of the biggest names
in football at the time.
He had an aura about him.
This absolute
legend of a player.
He'd managed Liverpool,
he'd won so many trophies, both
as a player and as a manager,
and for him to be at Blackburn,
everyone stood up
and paid attention.
There was a lot of
speculation in the media
about Blackburn
having a new owner
and the new owner
having a lot of money
and gonna invest in it.
It just seemed a wee bit
of a Cinderella story. I said,
"May as well have a go."
[narrator] Walker had provided
Dalglish with a massive war
chest to sign rising stars
like Alan Shearer
and Graeme Le Saux.
If Jack were gonna
make this happen, he would
have to invest in players.
He didn't just sign players,
he signed quality players.
And he sold 'em all
the same dream
and they all got on board.
[Le Saux] Everything
about it was optimistic.
There was a common goal within
the Blackburn dressing room.
There was a common goal within
the hierarchy of the club.
[narrator] Having spent
ú20 million but still failing
to win the title,
Jack Walker doubled down.
He smashed the British transfer
record for the second time
in two years.
The most expensive player in
the history of British football
has signed for Blackburn Rovers.
The Lancashire club has paid
ú5 million for Norwich striker
Chris Sutton.
It means he's worth
eight times his weight in gold.
[commentator] The signing
of Sutton adds another name to
the list of expensive purchases
made by Kenny Dalglish
for Blackburn.
[Dalglish] The thing about
Blackburn spending money
on players,
I think it upset a few people,
because it was another one
coming to the fore,
and I don't think
they liked that.
There seems no end to the funds
available to Dalglish,
and the arrival of Sutton
emphasizes even further
Walker's desire
to bring the championship
to Blackburn.
Blackburn's ability
to spend money on transfers,
massive money, money that
we'd never even contemplated
transformed football
to the point
where everybody said,
"This has shifted up a gear.
If we wanna compete
with Blackburn,
we're not gonna be outspent.
We're a bigger club.
We actually now
have to do something about it."
To use the phrase "arms race"
would be appropriate,
because that's what it became.
"We'll spend this.
We'll spend this."
[Preugschat] We were going into
a different era of football
with the Premier League
'cause that's when
all the prices went up.
It was like going from an Asda
to a Waitrose, weren't it?
It may only be late October,
but the pressure's already on
for the most successful club
in England over the past
couple of seasons.
Today, the meeting
of the two clubs
who raced to the line
for the Premiership title
last season.
This David-and-Goliath story
would begin in the first
head-to-head of the season,
with Blackburn welcoming
the reigning champions
Manchester United
to their new stadium.
It's one big test after another
for Manchester United,
with Blackburn Rovers
totally focused on proving
they have what it takes
and give this town
and its spectacular new stadium
a prize worthy of
the huge investment now behind
Blackburn Rovers Football Club.
If Blackburn were to lose,
United would move
ahead of them in the table.
[Sutton] I think
the importance of
the first head-to-head
is the psychological damage
which we could inflict
upon them.
For Manchester United, you look
at the team that they had
and you look at the quality
in each position, that was
a huge goal for us.
You know, you're playing
against the best team
in the country.
[commentator] Le Saux takes.
Schmeichel's come a long way.
Oh, and the punch
goes to Warhurst!
-[crowd cheering]
Hughes. Halftime is beckoning,
but Lee Sharpe
It's a penalty!
I can't believe that decision.
I cannot believe that decision!
The ball came off.
Oh, that's unbelievable!
[Cantona] When you play
in a big club
against a smaller club,
you have an advantage.
It's the history of the club.
It's a part of
the psychological war, you know?
Which is very, very important.
[commentator] Oh!
If we can beat United,
the belief that that puts
in us is huge.
[crowd chanting]
It was a 3-2 win here
eight days ago.
Oh, Le Saux for Hughes,
and it's 3-2
against Blackburn.
Oh, I remember that now.
and make absolutely sure
for Manchester United.
Sharpe's with him. Kanchelskis.
Still. And still. 4-2!
[narrator] Blackburn's
new ú26 million squad
had failed to land a blow
on the reigning champions.
I think the best ones
were at United
and they couldn't buy them.
You know,
so they could buy anybody,
but the best ones
were at United,
so we were the better team.
Sky's coverage of this crucial
head-to-head was watched
in homes and pubs
across the country.
The Premier League was
fast becoming must-see TV,
and with a growing audience,
yet more money flowed
into the game.
Football became
an industry much more
than it had been before,
and it was a huge part
of the tapestry of the country
by then.
Everybody was talking about
the Premier League.
But I think football
struggled to deal with that,
and by that I mean
the figures that were
becoming involved in football
were so far and away
above anything
that had been spoken of before.
It was moving away
from the man on the terrace.
Too much driven by money,
too little driven
by sporting spirit.
That's the Labour leader
Tony Blair's verdict
on our football clubs.
[narrator] In four years,
the cost of a Manchester United
season ticket
had gone up by 70%.
Amongst the ordinary
soccer supporters of this land,
there's a great fear
that they're gonna be
priced out of football,
and something
has got to be done.
[narrator] Prices were rising,
and a big chunk of the cash
was ending up
in the players' pockets.
Eric Cantona, the joint
top Premier League earner,
was said to be
on ú10,000 a week.
Most of the time,
it was the journalists
who asked questions like this,
"Oh, do you think there is
now too much money in football?"
But they are the one
who made it, or the Sky Sports
and everything.
They are the one
who made the system.
[man] There was a moral
judgment placed on how much
money players were getting,
because we identified them
as wealth,
and with wealth came assumptions
of how they should behave.
[narrator] The widening divide
between fans and players
and the growing
media infatuation
with the new stars
meant an even-brighter spotlight
was being shone on their lives.
[commentator] And Le Saux!
[Le Saux] My own story
was my background or the fact
I was a bit different,
maybe I didn't conform
with the stereotypes.
I turned up with my
sort of student look, my little,
you know, shoulder bag,
Guardiansticking out
the top of it,
turned-up jeans,
liberty patch on my
in the rip, you know.
Thought I was
a bit of a student.
And walked into a dressing room
of younger players
and senior players
that had a very
Uh, I suppose there was quite
a stereotypical image of what
a footballer should look like.
Rumours spread about me
that I was gay.
And we played West Ham
and the West Ham fans
started singing a song about me,
a homophobic song.
I remember during the game
thinking, "This is a problem.
This could be
very difficult for me."
And, you know, the Daily Star
had a headline about me
on the front page
of their newspaper
at some point,
when I first started seeing
my now wife.
Front page headline
the day before a big game
that we played in
with "Homo Le Saux
Not My Graeme"
on the front page
of the newspaper.
And I laugh,
'cause it's just so
I mean, it's just so out of date
and offensive to everyone,
you know, that they felt
that was acceptable,
to write that headline.
But clearly it's there to set a
conversation and to reinforce
You know, it gave me
even more unwanted attention.
Just a postscript to
the Graeme Le Saux story, Hugh,
I see that Vinnie Jones
of Wimbledon, writing
in the Mirrortoday
That sensitive creature?
Yes, that's the fella.
He says that Le Saux has
a nickname called "Tiny Tears,"
and he writes that
"Chelsea players," he says,
"would go to the Fox & Duck
public house,
while Le Saux would strut
into King's Road wine bars."
You see, the problem is that
footballers just aren't allowed
to be different, are they?
Even we read in The Suntoday
that Le Saux is
a Guardianreader, forgive him.
There was a period of time
when you couldn't differentiate
between sport and news,
and it got very messy.
The England and Arsenal
footballer, Paul Merson,
broke down in tears today,
as he told of his experiences
in an addiction
rehabilitation clinic.
He said it was the hardest thing
he'd ever done.
[press agent] It's obviously
a very difficult situation
for Paul.
I can remember being called
to a press conference
where Paul Merson broke down.
He obviously couldn't cope.
I mean, the poor guy
looked absolutely suicidal.
I was drinking heavy
and I was gambling
like a maniac,
and then I found cocaine
and it just completely
changed me,
changed the way I was.
The addiction you know,
if you're an addictive person,
it becomes even more addictive.
And one of the last things was,
I did play in a game
and I went out that night
and then I went to a bar after,
and I was
I got a black cab from the bar
to training in the morning,
and I was snorting
in the back of the black cab,
and the bloke was going to me,
"What are you doing, son?"
I feel myself dying,
I really do.
You know, the thoughts
are in my head.
I didn't feel right in me,
and I went to see Ken Friar,
and I said, "I'm struggling."
And they got this man in
called Stephen Stevens
from the Priory hospital,
and they said,
"You've gotta come in
to our treatment centre."
I've got a choice in life now.
I either go back to the booze
and the gambling and the drugs
or I go the other way,
and that's my objective
for today.
I can only take it a day
at a time, that's what
I've been learnt.
Was that a news story
of was that a football story?
Well, it's partly both.
It did become tough
to navigate your way through.
[Merson] Yeah, the press,
they had to sell papers.
It was a big thing then.
It was big news, you know.
Someone's taking cocaine
playing for Arsenal.
It was big. People were going,
"Ban him for life."
I'll never forget that.
You know, that was the panic.
I was thinking
You know, I didn't know
I was an addict at the time.
I just thought I was greedy
and weak and didn't care less.
I didn't know I had an illness
at the time, so I was worried.
I was worried.
I was thinking, you know,
"If they take football away
from me, what have I got?"
Let's go down
and have a little look and see.
[narrator] Meanwhile,
on the pitch, Blackburn
were hitting a run of form.
amazed, Richard.
We'll deal with Blackburn first.
If there were any surprises
formation-wise, it'll be
We've talked about Blackburn so
often. The back four of Berg,
Pearce, Hendry and Le Saux.
Jack Walker's ú26 million gamble
was starting to pay off.
Sutton gets it back.
Tries! And scores.
I remember going to games
just knowing we were gonna win.
There's Shearer! Off the post.
Finished off by Wilcox.
I haven't often felt so
confident in the players
who we had,
the way we were playing.
We are just going to
beat you up.
[commentator] Shearer!
Every game we were winning,
it was just magical.
That feeling that
we're gonna win this,
it's something within you.
It's like a religion.
It's something to believe in.
Interception by Le Saux.
[Le Saux]
We were magnificent
over Christmas,
and that gave us belief
that we could mount
a serious challenge.
[commentator] Hanging on to it
until the moment's right.
Now it may be.
It is because Shearer's there!
And Shearer's scored.
We had momentum. We were
looking forward to every game.
We were in our, sort of, groove.
-[whistle blows]
-[commentator] Le Saux is there,
and he takes it!
Graeme Le Saux for Blackburn!
We all knew the system
and we played it really well.
And then, I mean,
we hit the front,
top of the Premier League.
Well, there's a long way to go,
we've only just passed
the halfway mark now.
We're not even into January yet.
We'll carry on, we'll hopefully
give it our best shot.
We're sitting at the top.
We're there to be shot at.
Who knows?
It felt like
a very galvanized group,
and I think, again,
that's something, for me,
that really stands out about
that team during that period,
our ability to just focus on
what our responsibilities were
and what we were in control of.
[narrator] Three months
after their last clash,
Blackburn were five points
ahead of United in the league,
and the rivals
were facing off again.
[commentator] A really
big occasion at Old Trafford.
The theatre of dreams.
And the two teams coming out,
you can see the tension
etched on the faces here.
Blackburn looking for
their first championship
since 1914,
Manchester United seeking
their third championship
in a row.
[Sutton] Going into
the game at Old Trafford,
we were all focused on
go there, win the game,
put this title race to bed.
[commentator] Quick look up.
It's Cantona!
And he's scored!
My job as a defender
in playing against him
was to stop him doing that,
but you realize that sometimes
with players like that,
you can't.
[commentator 1]
Berg, Shearer coming in!
Off Sherwood! No.
[commentator 2]
He's given a push
against Alan Shearer, Martin.
[commentator 1] Well, you may
never hear the last of this,
from a Blackburn point of view.
Now this was
the key moment, Andy.
[commentator 2] Well,
I tell you, there was no more
than an arm up there.
I certainly thought Shearer
didn't do an awful lot wrong.
I mean, you couldn't make it up,
really. They needed that result
to stay in the race.
United move
to within two points
of Blackburn at the top.
Eric Cantona yet again
is the United hero.
[McCarthy] I think Eric Cantona,
he always struck me as
something like a Roman emperor.
He would sit there and his chest
would be puffed out and he would
have that haughty gaze,
and it made the Premier League,
the rest of the Premier League,
and fans,
sit up in their seats and say,
"Well, this is something
This is now what
the Premier League could be."
[narrator] Manchester United's
French goal scorer
had become their talisman,
and the more success
he had on the pitch,
the more attention
he got off it.
You have more and more and more
and more games on TV,
and more newspapers
spoke about football.
You have maybe more pressure.
Eric had cameramen following him
around, trying to get some kind
of story on Eric.
That started happening
more with footballers.
You feel like a prisoner
of the others,
of what is expected from you.
I don't know what
I expect from myself.
You know?
I don't know.
On the social side of things,
obviously people, fans
knew that Eric had
this reputation,
and people come out
and they try and test you.
I was with him in a hotel
and there was people up in
the mezzanine floor above him,
and we were sitting there
having a drink.
People were spitting on him.
You know what I mean, he
confronted the guy who'd done it
and the guy was like, you know,
"What you gonna do?"
sort of thing.
It's stuff like that
that gives you an insight
into what he was dealing with.
Of course you have
people who judge you,
and for me, in England,
it was a bit like this,
but I didn't know anything.
Just my feelings, my instinct.
[man] Whenever you're playing
against Manchester United,
it's certainly a fixture,
but we didn't really understand
the magnitude of what happened
until probably the next day,
when it was on the front page
of every paper.
You try to wind up
the best player in the team,
and Eric was the one player
that, if you could get to,
you could disrupt
the flow of Manchester United
if you like.
Kick him, wind him up,
get into his head, because
they knew he could react.
[Shaw] You know, I was playing
centre half with Chris Coleman.
In terms of anything special
for them, I just think
fingers crossed and pray
that we keep the score down
to one or two and try
and get through the game.
And people say, "Were you given
a specific task for Cantona?
Did you man mark him?"
this or that.
No, not at all. No.
How can you man mark
at Manchester United? There's
just too many good players.
[Schmeichel] Crystal Palace
were trying to wind players up,
and of course at Selhurst Park,
in January 1995,
we saw something
that was probably
We'd never seen that before.
Probably haven't seen that
to that scale since.
[commentator] Cantona,
tried to get on his way,
had a little kick at Shaw there
out of frustration,
and the linesman had a very,
very good view of it.
Now, temperatures rising,
and out comes the red card.
There's the morning headline.
It was an innocuous trip.
There's hardly anything there.
I never made anything about it,
I have to say. Nothing at all.
And I quite like a bit of
devilment in a player anyway.
Eric had that arrogance.
It was just one of them things
that happened a clash
with Eric being sent off.
[commentator] I think the
linesman and the referee,
they had it spot-on there.
Eric Cantona was giving chase
and Richard Shaw was chasing
with him. Eric Oh, my.
[commentator 2]
Oh, and Cantona has got involved
with a fan in the front row!
The press box at Selhurst Park
is basically on the halfway
line, but at the back.
And suddenly I'm looking down
and you see a figure
moving rapidly down.
And it's obvious he's saying
something confrontational.
[narrator] Witnesses
described fan Matthew Simmons
attacking Cantona's nationality
and insulting his mother.
The lad came down and gave him,
apparently, dog's abuse.
And he just thought,
"No, you're not
getting away with it."
Oh, this is outrageous.
Cantona's attacked a fan!
[commentator 2]
Oh, my goodness me!
He has kicked
He's punched a fan!
Eric Cantona
[commentator 1]
He's punched a fan
in the face!
You're just kinda taken aback
by what you're seeing.
You see him kind of launch
himself into the crowd,
and you're like, "Wow."
-[commentator 2] A scissor
kung fu kick on a fan!
-He smacked him in the face!
[commentator 2]
Manchester United fans
are coming across!
I have never seen as
disgraceful an incident as that!
[commentator 1] Norman Davies,
the Manchester United kit man,
trying to pull him away.
I'm looking at Norman Davies,
our kit man at the time.
It's gone beyond
the boiling point.
[Schmeichel] I can see
Eric is very, very upset,
very, very upset, and he
Norman is having a hard time
controlling him.
So that's when I helped him
with, you know, walk him out,
down to the tunnel,
and make sure that
he gets to the dressing room.
I can't tell you how many times
I've felt like doing it.
This time Eric was just provoked
a little bit too much.
It is shocking.
It shocked me at the time.
I was thinking, "Wow.
I can't believe he's done that."
[commentator] Once more,
Eric Cantona is the man
at the centre
of a dramatic controversy.
[Peter Schmeichel]
After the game,
it wasn't the greatest time
I've had in a dressing room.
I remember quiet,
I remember confusion.
No one really knows
what's gonna happen next,
no one really knows exactly
how to deal with this situation,
and just a really, really dead,
quiet atmosphere
in the dressing room.
I remember me looking at Eric,
and I said, "Eric," you know,
And Ince sort of shouting
I mean, not shouting,
but just saying,
"Pete, shut up," you know,
and that was kind of it.
When you have been sent off
and you think
there's an injustice,
you know, your mind's all over
the place, and for that split
second, he lost it.
We're all human beings,
as much as we are
professional footballers
and we get paid
whatever people say we get paid
and whatever you do get paid,
you can lose it
like anybody else.
These reports will be
fully investigated by
a senior police officer,
from South Norwood
Police Station, and then
we will obviously
What action we take next will
depend on that investigation.
[interviewer] What was
your version of the events
which led up to the dismissal?
Um, nothing really,
it's just handbags at 50 paces.
There's nothing
malicious about it.
I think we just turned round,
we ran into each other
and I end up on the floor.
Did he kick you?
I didn't really feel nothing,
I think it's just
a bit of a collision.
Obviously I can't say too much,
but next thing I knew,
the red card came up
and he was walking off.
Do you think
you fouled him first?
Not at all, not at all, no.
That's lovely. Thanks a lot.
Thanks, Richard.
Sorry it was all about that
and nothing else.
We hadn't seen anything
like that before.
I certainly hadn't.
And all of a sudden
you think, "Wow," you know,
"We're a part of that."
Should Eric Cantona
be banned for life?
You might've expected that one.
Should Eric Cantona
be banned for life?
-Rosie Boycott?
-Well, given that you're all
a Liverpool crowd,
-I guess you probably
all would say yes.
-To me, it was just despicable,
and to set an example
for young children and now
trying to defend his conduct
It's unprecedented for
any professional footballer
to attack a member
of the paying public.
Yes, he has got problems,
but he shouldn't be a problem
for the British game.
The press would've loved
the moment that Cantona leapt up
and took out
that Crystal Palace fan.
Because what Cantona
did there was provide them
with perfect content.
'Cause it didn't matter
that he was the bad guy.
It didn't matter.
He was still a guy involved in
the drama of the Premier League.
And The Sun,full story.
Pages one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine, ten.
Virtually the entire paper
was given over to Cantona.
It had fuming columnists
talking about how he was
a disgrace to football.
Played to every kind
of thought about it.
Eric Cantona, the darling
of Manchester United,
captain of France,
the players'
own Player of the Year,
stands accused
of placing a stain
on the game of football.
I think it's the classic example
of a highly strung,
rather overemotional Frenchman.
As part of his character,
he has a volatility
that he can't control.
I just think
Eric Cantona's off his head.
I thought he should've
walked off and went to the
tunnel like any other player.
But obviously,
someone said something to him
and he couldn't control it.
[reporter] I gather you have
a special reason to like
Eric Cantona. Tell me why.
Well, one of many reasons
is obviously because
he's a great player.
But, I mean, I like him
that much that on Monday
my daughter was born,
Laura Jane,
and her middle name is Cantona.
Laura Jane Cantona Boyle.
And even now,
I've got no regrets
about calling her that.
Obviously, he's overreacted.
But, I mean, he's human,
isn't he? Or is he?
[older Boyle]
It was a tabloid's dream.
The tabloid press is
so xenophobic in lots of
Down the years, you know,
from French lorry drivers
being on strike.
They love to have it,
"Oh, they're doing this,
they're doing that."
So Cantona was perfect for 'em.
United, we'd always been
the biggest club and now we're
the most successful club.
And also, we all know
that the British tabloids
like nothing more
than dragging people down.
Look, I've been getting
stick all my football career
from fans.
Some of it horrific,
none of it justified.
I felt really sorry
for him in some ways.
I felt that he You know,
sorry for him that he'd let his
self-control go to that extent.
But he lost control,
lost his temper,
and the reaction was so extreme
that I think everybody was just
in shock at what had happened.
Good morning,
ladies and gentlemen.
I have a press statement
from Manchester United
Football Club.
"Manchester United has today
suspended Eric Cantona
from all first-team matches
for the remainder
of the 1994/95 season.
In addition,
the player has been fined
the maximum sum permissible
under his contract."
[Pallister] When the club said,
"Look, we're gonna suspend him,"
I think we thought,
"Well, that's gonna
be strong enough.
He's now not gonna
be able to play his part
in the title run.
And that's gonna hurt him
and it's gonna hurt the club."
We kind of thought,
"That'll be enough."
But no, they saw it
as far more than that.
What happened last night
was a stain on our game.
The Football Association
has this evening
charged Eric Cantona
of Manchester United and France
with misconduct that has brought
the game into disrepute.
I think on many clubs,
I would've been maybe sacked.
And on Manchester United,
I was allowed to leave
if I wanted to leave.
They always said that to me,
"If you want to leave,
you can leave."
And if you say
that to me, I stay.
[reporters clamouring]
[reporter] United's fiery
French international
faced the music today
at an FA disciplinary hearing.
Whilst we are
naturally disappointed
that the football association
have felt it necessary
to increase the suspension
which was promptly meted out
by Manchester United,
the decision has been accepted
in everyone's interests.
[Cantona] What was hard
is not to play football.
I wasn't allowed to play
a game, even a friendly game.
That was hard.
Eric Cantona has never sought
to justify his actions,
nor to minimize
their seriousness.
He deeply regrets
what he has done.
He got punished
for what he did.
And Manchester United
just had to live with it,
and so did Cantona.
[narrator] With United
missing their star,
Kenny Dalglish's Blackburn
would never have a better chance
to claim the title.
In terms of losing Eric Cantona,
it's a big, big deal.
I can't, you know, sit here
and say it wasn't a bit deal
because he was such
an influential player.
But we certainly weren't
foolish enough to think
that that whole incident would
decide whether Manchester United
were still contenders or not.
All of a sudden,
we were stealing their thunder.
[commentator] Oh, it takes
a deflection! It's a goal!
Paul Warhurst.
Every game, we were winning.
But I remember feeling
a bit shaky and thinking,
"Mmm, we might not do this."
The pressure of being top
was beginning to take its toll
on Blackburn.
[commentator] Inviting cross,
and a bullet of a header.
We tired a little bit
second half of the season.
We hadn't had players
on the team who had been there
and done it to settle us down.
Blackburn did get nervous.
We got back a number of points
because the nerves did hit 'em.
We started to think about them
rather than ourselves,
and then that impacted on
a few of the results.
Deane's flicked it on!
-[crowd cheering]
And Deane has done it
at the death!
You just have to hope
there is a miracle.
And we hope
that Manchester City win.
-[crowd cheering]
Curle. It's 1-1.
We were nine points clear,
six games to go,
and then we really
slipped up in a bad way.
[commentator] Hendry's header.
R÷sler slides it in!
We lost at home
to Manchester City,
who were in a relegation battle.
And I think
that that shocked us.
I really did think that
we'd blown it at one point.
I now think that Blackburn
can only throw the league away.
The Devon Loch quote,
that got thrown in from Fergie.
"We can only hope
for a Devon Loch now."
The horse that fell
on the final fence
at Grand National.
If you want to play a mind game,
fine, it's no problem.
You know it's coming.
So if you don't know how
to deal with it,
then yeah,
you might have a problem.
Well, you've always said that
you take nothing for granted.
Well, if you just look
at it sensibly,
we're still five points
in front, what is it,
four games to go?
So I don't think
we'd swap with anybody.
[Sutton] I think
a lot of the confidence
came from the manager.
And we often looked for him
in times of adversity.
[Dalglish] I don't think there
was any of them had ever won
a league title before.
So it was important for them
that I could pass on any
experience I had for that.
And if that helped 'em,
I was only doing my job.
Good evening.
The Crystal Palace supporter
kicked by Eric Cantona
launched an attack
of his own today in a
South London magistrates' court.
[narrator] The man
who'd abused Eric Cantona,
Matthew Simmons,
was now facing criminal charges
for his involvement
in the incident.
[reporter] Mr Simmons
claims to have shouted,
"Off, off, off, go on, Cantona,
have an early shower."
Mr David Paul QC said that
this was an utter falsehood,
and he told the court
that Mr Cantona's race,
his sexual orientation
and the sexual orientation
of his mother
had been questioned
by Mr Simmons in words
and gestures designed
to hurt as deeply as possible.
Details were beginning to emerge
about Simmons' links
with the National Front
and a previous conviction
of attempted violent robbery.
[reporter] Matthew Simmons
appeared under no obvious stress
as he arrived in court.
All that changed after
the magistrates told him
he'd been found guilty
of provoking Cantona's
assault on him.
His first target
was prosecutor Jeffrey McCann,
who wanted him banned
from all football grounds.
Simmons exploded with anger,
jumped over the bench
and grabbed
Mr McCann by the neck.
"This is a lie," he shouted.
"I'm innocent, I promise.
I swear on the Bible."
As three police officers,
and two court staff struggled
to hold him down,
he fought his way across to
journalists, calling them scum.
He then appeared to try
and bite one of the officers,
who eventually managed to
handcuff him and led him away.
No one has yet mentioned
on this panel the bloke who
deliberately left his seat,
wandered down the steps,
in order, in the words
of another fan,
"to call him
every name under the sun."
There's an extraordinary
phenomenon in football,
whereby the fan believes
they own the players
and can say
absolutely anything they like.
I have one regret.
That I didn't kick him
even more than that.
I don't think you could be
two-faced about Eric Cantona.
You couldn't pretend that what
he had done wasn't out of order.
It was. Completely.
But there was provocation.
A lot of the English fans
were fuelled by
right-wing bigotry.
They were driven by xenophobia
and a hatred
of anything non-English.
Cantona was a symbol
of that, unfortunately.
It sparked an awareness
within football that
he's gone a step too far,
but we can understand
why he did that.
And I think what
players realized
Black, foreign, English
"We know the level of abuse
that we're receiving
from the stands.
We're not gonna put up
with that anymore."
If there was racial abuse,
it was seen as part
and parcel of football.
I mean, as a kid I wasn't
allowed to go to football.
My parents wouldn't
let me go and watch football
because they knew
I was gonna be racially abused.
They were worried
for my safety, and rightly so.
If a Black player, for instance,
makes a mistake, you say,
"You Black bastard."
I don't think that's racism
when it's said like that.
I think it's just a term
of endearment, really.
I was called a few names
by a coach, and he said
And someone said something
to him and he went, "No,
he's gotta get used to that,
'cause he's gonna get it
on the terraces. If he can't
deal with it now"
But that was,
you know, back in the day.
I had to get used to it,
because that's what I was gonna
experience on the terraces.
Just depends what
you define racism as.
If you mean, like,
little comments like,
"You Black cunt,"
and things like that,
that don't mean nothing.
It's just, like, off the top
of your tongue, isn't it?
Kind of the done thing
to experience it.
That sounds
really stupid, I know.
But it happened and we just
accepted it happened,
because we just
No one's stopping it.
[Ferdinand] For years
I've seen bananas thrown
onto the pitch at players.
Football was always an avenue
where people could come en masse
and racially abuse
the Black players
that were playing at the time,
walk out the stadium
and say to their mate,
"Oh, see you next week."
And nothing was done about it.
You know, then all of a sudden,
this guy jumps into the crowd
because he was called
a French this,
that and the other,
and then they decide
that there's a problem.
Despite Sky's repackaging
of football,
the sinister side of the game
had been hiding in plain sight.
-Is it okay to shout
-Racial abuse at me
Just because I am
on the football pitch?
[narrator] One of the league's
biggest sponsors, Nike,
was quick
to spot an opportunity,
and they launched
an anti-racism campaign.
-Do you
-see a Black man?
A Frenchman?
-Or a
-Is it okay to shout
-Racial abuse at me
Just because I am
on the football pitch?
At the time, I was
We were both sponsored by Nike,
and they wanted
to do something about racism.
-Some people say
-We have to accept abuse
as part of the game.
So this just goes to show
that was '95
how long we've been banging on
about this same problem.
And we're now in 2021,
and we're still talking
about it.
Probably the situation's
become even worse
in terms of the abuse
that people are taking.
And that's why I don't
wanna wear another T-shirt.
I don't wanna wear
another badge.
I want action.
I don't wanna keep gestures,
gestures, gestures.
There's a gesture there,
in 1995, and we're still
making gestures.
[fans chanting]
[narrator] With Cantona's
court hearing fast approaching,
the United faithful had
already reached their verdict.
-¦ The King, the King, the King-¦
-¦ He's the leader
Of our football team-¦
-¦ He's the greatest French
Footballer that the world -¦
[Boyle] Amongst the hard-core
fans who go week-in, week-out,
I would say Eric
had unwavering support.
I might be wrong,
but from the people
in my circles
and everywhere around that,
nobody was saying
he should've done it.
But people thought,
"We stick by each other here."
-¦ Eric is so cool-¦
[continues, indistinct]
[fans] Boo!
"You are a high-profile figure
looked up to by young people.
The only appropriate
sentence is two weeks'
imprisonment forthwith."
With those words,
the Croydon Magistrate
sentenced Eric Cantona
to two weeks in jail
for his assault
on a Crystal Palace supporter.
I was in the Magistrate's court
and I remember the gasp
that went round
when he was initially
sent to prison for two weeks.
And the look on his face,
he wasn't expecting that.
And then, of course, there was
quickly, appeals were put in.
[Boyle] So we decided we'd go
down South London, Croydon,
and a TV breakfast show
at the time, they ended up
asking us to come on the show.
They've taken a short diversion
before they go to Croydon,
to sing outside
Eric's trial this morning.
What's so great about Cantona?
He's unique, isn't he,
you know what I mean?
Not just as a footballer,
as a person.
He's interesting.
We sang live
on the TV show in the morning.
-¦ He's the greatest
French footballer-¦
-Then we went to Croydon
-[singing continues]
and we were outside
the court, chanting our support.
[reporter] Cantona arrived
at court this morning
knowing he'd either be free
or in prison by tonight.
Fans who travelled
from Manchester were there
to support their hero.
Cantona's case didn't meet
the specific requirements
laid down to warrant
jailing him, he said.
A community service order
was more appropriate
for common assault,
and the court of appeal agreed.
I learned a lot about myself,
I learned a lot about the fans,
the people at the club.
I learned a lot.
Let me say something now.
If that was a Black player,
he'd have been in prison.
He'd have been arrested.
Ain't no chance he would've
got away with that.
-[interviewer 5] Did you think
that at the time?
-Yeah. 100%.
I ain't alone in thinking that
if that was a Black player
'cause I've known loads
of Black players
who've mentioned it since
had that been a Black
player, it would've been
a very different outcome.
The Cantona incident at
Selhurst Park was a very,
very significant stepping stone
in the development
of the Premier League.
Because it was the,
sort of, first indicator
that personality was everything.
And he knew,
with that press conference,
exactly what he was doing.
[reporter] The massed ranks
of the press wanted to know
just one thing:
"How did he feel?"
But his barbed reply
left everyone bewildered.
When the seagulls
follow the trawler,
it's because they think sardines
will be thrown into the sea.
Thank you very much.
[reporters clamouring]
The famous press conference
with the trawlers
and the sardines.
I mean, lovely stuff.
I mean, just Eric being Eric.
I was there, I saw it.
I was literally
and there he was.
And you don't get many
of those in your career.
There's this maverick figure,
who no one really knew.
We all thought we knew him,
but we didn't really know him.
It's great also to have
the situation like this,
you know,
to learn a lot
of things, you know.
Learn about yourself,
learn about the other ones.
I want to put myself
in certain kind of situations,
to live the experience.
Yeah, I'm afraid about
one thing. Emptiness.
I hate emptiness.
[crowd cheering]
[narrator] In the final game
of the season,
Blackburn needed
to beat Liverpool at Anfield
to guarantee
they'd win the title.
[presenter] Dalglish goes home
to Anfield today,
knowing a win will secure
the title for Blackburn
for the first time in 81 years.
Meanwhile, Manchester United
travelled to West Ham.
If they won and Blackburn lost,
the trophy would remain
at Old Trafford
for the third year running.
We haven't had a finish
like this for years.
The big question,
where is the title going?
Is the title going back
to Old Trafford
for a third successive year,
or is the 81-year wait
at Ewood finally over?
Now, are United going
to do it today, Dennis?
I think there's a great
possibility that United could
come here to West Ham and win.
It all depends, of course,
what happens up at Anfield.
Could Blackburn make history
and win the top division
for the first time since 1914?
Forty-one games down
and one to go.
If they do it,
there'll be no arguments.
Blackburn Rovers
will deserve to be champions.
Going into the Liverpool game,
it was still in our hands.
-[whistle blows]
-[Le Saux] The Liverpool players
were so distracted.
They were talking
about, you know,
"Well, hope you win it
and not Manchester United,"
'cause of the rivalry.
But for us,
it was really difficult,
because we were nervous.
I just looked at them.
Yeah, they looked a bit nervous.
Some of them might be thinking,
"We're never gonna get
this close again, ever,
to winning a championship."
But they've gotta be
understanding in themselves
as well, to say,
"Well, how did we get here?"
[Preugschat] Yeah.
We were in amongst all that lot.
We wanted to prove ourselves.
We were gonna be better
than Manchester United.
Because they'd been sat up there
on their pedestal for so long.
It's somebody coming along
and knocking 'em off,
isn't it, really?
All Liverpool needed
to do was just give us
this win, really.
But they were never
gonna do that.
[Le Saux]
You know, the season's built
over the course of ten months,
and everything went down
to this one game.
So it was like the world's
longest knockout competition.
-[crowd cheering]
-Where it was a dream start.
[commentator] Shearer goal
for Blackburn Rovers!
[Shearer] Yeah, I remember
thinking, "Just don't get
too excited here,
because there's such
a long way to go.
You haven't won the title yet."
[crowd cheering]
Obviously we were happy,
but you always know
that if you score so early,
there's every chance
they're gonna come back.
[Hendry] Really didn't know
how to cope throughout
the game at times
because you're always
thinking of what's going on
at Upton Park.
[crowd singing]
[commentator laughs]
The West Ham fans are singing,
"There's only one Alan Shearer."
Blackburn went 1-0 up,
and then we heard the first
shouting from the fans.
We're kind of thinking,
"Well, Liverpool aren't
gonna turn up here."
And, unfortunately,
we went behind.
-[commentator] Matty Holmes.
Great cross, great goal!
-[crowd cheering]
Sky, with all their
broadcasting innovation,
had these wonderful
split-screen moments.
West Ham have taken the lead.
[White] This was the first time
the Premier League on Sky
had had that classic
last-day denouement.
This was really important
content for them.
And it was showing that
the drama was unmatchable.
[commentator] It's gonna take
a superhuman effort to find
two goals in the second half.
Neville sweeps in the free kick,
and they've got one of them!
Brian McClair scores,
and they're not giving up
the title without a fight.
That intensity is there
to get the goal
that's gonna make your season.
So we were just piling forward.
-[crowd cheering]
-[whistle blows]
[commentator] Manchester United
have equalized.
We were getting updates,
so we were aware
of what we had to do.
But Liverpool go and score.
The game so tight.
Oh! What did I tell you?
Bloody hell, 1-1. John Barnes.
Kenny looks mad.
He's pissed off, isn't he?
And that's when you start
biting your nails.
[commentator] Kenna.
It was a good ball
from Jeff Kenna.
Alan Shearer's there!
Oh, Alan Shearer!
I miss a big chance
to put us in front.
Would you believe it?
That Shearer's hopeless.
I don't know why I signed him.
It was such
a difficult atmosphere.
[Shearer] And then David Batty
giving the foul away.
[commentator] David Batty
may be about to get
himself booked here.
[Le Saux] Ninety minutes in,
and Jamie Redknapp stepped up.
As soon as he hit it
I just knew it was in.
And we're gobsmacked,
all of us.
The fans, the players.
When that goal goes in,
I just think,
"Oh no. That's it.
We've blown it."
Losing the game
with just seconds to go,
Blackburn could only hope that
United didn't sneak a winner
and take the title.
[commentator] Cole!
It didn't go anything to plan.
It couldn't have gone
any worse for us.
And, for a Man United fan,
it couldn't have gone
any better for them.
[Sutton] It was out of
our hands for
I think it felt like
an absolute eternity,
where you have indescribable
feelings of sickness.
We'd got so close.
And then there's the fear
of it, all of a sudden,
being taken away.
We don't have a clue,
to be fair, at this point,
because we don't know
what's going on at Upton Park.
[commentator] A goal
by Manchester United
would bring them
the title at this stage,
if this goes.
Cole's through!
Oh, he's missed it!
That could've been
the chance to win
Manchester United the title!
There were still people
still mourning.
And everybody started
to go like that.
And then somebody on the radio
had heard that it had finished
down there.
[Le Saux]
It started with our fans
in the corner who heard it,
and then it moved up
to the bench.
Then a guy just shouted,
"It's finished."
[crowd roaring]
[Hendry] Kenny's face
lights up, and that's when
we knew we'd won.
Everyone's going mad
on the touchline.
And we've now won the title,
and we just want
the game to end.
[commentator] Truth is stranger
than fiction sometimes in sport.
They're losing this game
and they're hugging
each other in delight.
David Elleray calls
a halt at Anfield.
It was a strange feeling,
and it's each to their own,
but my biggest feeling
was relief.
[Hendry] A total roller coaster.
You go from one extreme
to the other within a second.
[Le Saux] You win the league,
it's because you deserve it.
It's not about the last game
or the last minute
of the last game.
It's about everything
that went before it.
It's a dream
for everybody, right?
And beyond most people's
that Blackburn would've been
in a position like that.
They thoroughly deserved
what they'd achieved.
[players cheering]
That's one of these times
where you don't know what
you're doing with yourself.
It's just a blur.
Who's that he's giving it to?
"Here, have a swig of that."
How aware were you of what
was going on at Upton Park?
We weren't. We just heard
a big roar at the end there.
-[players cheering]
-[interviewer] I think
we're getting a soaking here.
[laughs] We didn't care.
We just wanted to get
the party started.
[Pallister] I can't tell you
the disappointment
and the hurt that is there
because a season's work
has gone up in flames.
It's very hard to win a title.
When you're that close
and you just don't quite
get over the line,
I think it probably stings
just that little bit more.
It's been a fantastic
league race
and all credit to Blackburn.
They've amassed 90 points,
which anyone getting that kind
of points totally deserves
the championship.
And I would like to congratulate
Ken and his players
on their magnificent effort
in the campaign,
and it's a good team to take
the championship away from us.
[Le Saux]
I handed Jack the trophy.
I remember handing it to him.
He had tears in his eyes
and you could see the joy
and the pride that he had.
And to see that and be there
in that moment with him
was really, really special.
I was quite impressed
with Jack Walker.
When you use the expression
"Put your money
where your mouth is,"
I think that's what he did.
Being on the receiving end
of that wasn't nice
at the time, of course,
but I think he created
something from his heart.
Without the contribution
from him,
Blackburn wouldn't have
been anywhere near that.
[Shearer] Little old Blackburn
had entered the Premier League
and won the Premier League,
and took on the might
of Manchester United,
and it was just an unbelievable
achievement for everyone.
All our hard work had paid off.
[Preugschat] It doesn't matter
what happens now,
our name went on that trophy.
It's there.
We're going down in history.
It was just a good
all-round completion.
Mission accomplished. Tick box.
It felt like
a new era, you know.
That we were gonna be
up there forever, I suppose.
And my husband
used to say He said,
"You'll never see this again.
Never in your lifetime
will you see this again."
And he was right.
When a player is missing
for a few weeks, I think
it can make the difference.
It was my fault.
You thought that?
-Yeah, yes.
I feel guilty
because I did something that
I don't regret as a thing,
but I regret it
because we didn't win
the league,
I think, because I was banned.
[McCarthy] Sir Alex Ferguson
looked at it and said,
"We're Manchester United,
by the way. Why are we
in danger of being left behind
by Blackburn Rovers?"
And that's where you saw
exponential growth
and an explosion
in transfers and wages.
This changed football forever.
I'm on the bed with
soccer's latest sex god.
Footballers became
sort of like rock stars.
And most of us try to live up
to that lifestyle.
Most were 19, 20 years of age
and so wide-eyed.
I just wanted to be part of it.
Wherever we went,
there was a barrage
of photographers, ready.
I heard a knock on the door.
It was some newspaper,
and they sold the story.
Tomorrow morning's front page
in The Sunhas news
that Keith Gillespie
of Newcastle
has apparently spent ú62,000
in a week at the bookies.
Keith was a very good player.
But he was a troubled young man.
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