Football: 'You're a long time finished,' Taylor tells Cantona

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The Independent Online

Senior football figures were queuing up yesterday to urge Eric Cantona to think long and hard about his decision to retire.

"I am very shocked," Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said. "In football you are a long time finished. Eric is only 30 and I feel he still has three or four years left in the game. I hope he would reconsider his position.

"He is a very strong character and tends to act on the spur of the moment, on impulse, and perhaps he may have done so again. Football will be the loser if he has made his final decision.

"He has certainly brought colour to the game as well as some controversy. But that should not over-shadow his achievements in this country."

Ruud Gullit, the manager of FA Cup-winners Chelsea, believes the Frenchman might change his mind. "I think 31 is young to retire, but obviously you have to respect his decision," said Gullit, in Hong Kong with his team for today's friendly against South China. "But maybe there is still a possibility he will withdraw his decision, so we will just have to wait till he comes out himself and explains the reasons why he wants to stop."

In France, the man who discovered Cantona and offered him his first professional contract in 1983, also refused to accept that his erstwhile protege had irrevocably called it a day.

"I'm not sure that he is quitting," Auxerre's coach, Guy Roux, said. "Big stars bid farewell more than once. It's one of his first goodbyes. I'm sure there will be encores. I will wait for his departure to be confirmed, as I'm used to surprises with Cantona."

Alex Ferguson was looking ahead yesterday, saying he wanted to sign up to three new players. Speaking on a visit to Belfast, he said: "We had plans before Eric made his announcement and we will continue with those plans. We are going to try and add a couple of players, maybe even three now, to our squad."

John Moncur has had more than one brush with Eric Cantona, but now finds himself with a desirable souvenir.

The West Ham midfielder, whose stamping by the Frenchman three years ago led to Cantona's first red card in England three years ago, persuaded Cantona to part with his shirt at the end of last Sunday's game at Manchester United, and Sotheby's say the shirt would generate plenty of interest.

"There would certainly be a big demand for it if the shirt came up for sale," a spokesman for the auction house said.

Moncur may be the owner of Cantona's last shirt in competitive football, but the Frenchman presented ex-Coventry defender David Busst with a memento of his own last week.

Cantona ended his career by scoring twice in the former Coventry defender's testimonial on Friday. He then signed his shirt and handed it to Busst, who was forced to retire, after being badly injured in a match against United 13 months ago.

When Cantona told Ferguson that he was retiring, he said he still wanted to play at Highfield Road. "The fact that he was determined to turn out in David's testimonial, knowing he was retiring, does him immense credit," Busst's agent, Murdo Mackay, said.

"He is a lovely man and he took the game seriously. It wasn't a walk in the park by any means. David was very moved that he signed his shirt and handed it to him. He was extremely supportive in the months that followed David's injury and was one of a number of United players, who visited him in hospital.

"Eric came up to me after the match and thanked me personally for arranging the testimonial. I'll be writing to him just to let him know how much we appreciated what he has done for David - and football in general." Mackay now plans to market videos of the game.