Football: Cantona is best since Best

Eric Cantona's rehabilitation was completed yesterday without him kicking a ball - or indeed anything else - when he was elected Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers' Association. His 36 per cent of the vote was comfortably ahead of his nearest challengers, Chelsea's Ruud Gullit and Robbie Fowler of Liverpool.

The award is given not only for achievement on the field but also for contribution off it. Thus, along with Cantona's pivotal role in helping Manchester United to the brink of the title and the FA Cup final, is recognised his exemplary behaviour since he returned to action last October after an eight-month ban for his kung-fu kick on a spectator at Selhurst Park in January 1995.

Cantona is the 49th winner of the award and follows such names as Sir Stanley Matthews and Bobby Moore. He is also the first Manchester United player to win since George Best in 1968, and the fourth in all.

It even prompted him to issue a rare statement from his weekend break in France to the writers who have voted for him but to whom he has refused all interviews in the last 15 months.

"I am very proud and privileged to have been voted Footballer of the Year," he said. "It is a tremendous honour for me and my country and it is a great tribute to my fellow players at Manchester United."

"This award proves the value of British justice," his manager Alex Ferguson added. "It is well deserved because there is no doubt that Eric Cantona has been the best player in the country this season."

Cantona has scored 17 goals this season, many of them decisive in tight games, but just as importantly has brought a huge influence to bear on a United side in transition. His perceptive linking and passing from his deep-lying striker's position has also impressed his fellow professionals though his main impact, as he has got stronger by the month, came too late for him to earn their award. That has gone to Les Ferdinand.

All this has been achieved with no apparent loss of the fire in his belly, despite what seems a dousing of a once hot-headed temperament. Cantona, 30 next month, has been booked only once this season and indeed has acted as peacemaker on a couple of heated occasions.

Clearly Cantona has taken his punishment after Selhurst - the eight-month ban, fines of pounds 20,000 and 120 hours of community service - and returned chastened, determined to confront the criticism and confound. He has duly done so. For their forgiveness and open- mindedness, the maligned old football writers for whom Cantona shows distaste deserve a little credit, too. He certainly had this member's vote.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - Tech Startup - Direct Your Own Career Path

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Sales Advisor - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telephone Sales Advisor is re...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent