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
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada