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Cantona to train 700 young players as his sentence

The footballer, Eric Cantona, has created his own coaching programme for children as part of his 120-hour community service order for attacking a fan, it was disclosed yesterday.

More than 700 young players are expected to benefit from his skills over the next few months.

The suspended Manchester United and French international player will begin coaching on Tuesday, 18 April, said a spokeswoman for Greater Manchester probation service.

Cantona will hold the sessions in United's training ground at The Cliff, Salford, in an indoor gym "away from media pressure", the spokeswoman said.

"The coaching programme has been devised by Mr Cantona and will include a two-hour session for groups of around 12 Salford children."

The children would be aged between nine and 11 and come from football teams and schools in the area. Cantona would be coaching two groups per session, working virtually every afternoon over the coming months.

"It is anticipated that over 700 young children will benefit from the scheme," said the spokeswoman, adding that the programme would be supervised by the probation service.

The service was keen to stress that the schedule was "very demanding" and the punishment was not a "soft option".

Assistant chief probation officer Liz Calderbank said: "The programme is football-related and takes into account Mr Cantona's skills, reflecting the wishes of the judge who made the Community Service Order."

The court asked that Cantona be allowed to use his footballing skills to benefit young people who enjoyed the game.

Ms Calderbank stressed: "Community Service is a punishment which is about reparation. In this case, the offence was committed in a footballing environment.

"The programme will allow Eric Cantona to put something positive back into the community to the benefit of local children. It is no soft option. We have insisted that Mr Cantona devise the coaching programme himself.

"We feel it is very demanding in terms of the numbers of young people involved and the length of the coaching sessions."