In an infamous incident in January 1995, football legend Eric Cantona is pulled away after launching a kung fu style attack on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons. But who’s that watching the arresting sight from the stands at Selhurst Park?
Looking on as the drama unfolds is Northern Ireland’s new Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, a life-long Crystal Palace fan.
The 50-year-old was at the match that day between Manchester United and Palace — standing close enough to see Cantona’s flying kick into the crowd.
It is understood Baggott — a senior police offer with the Met at the time — was one of many witnesses asked to give evidence to the police. However, he heard nothing more from the police about the incident.
The game has gone down in football folklore after Cantona was fined £20,000, sentenced to 120 hours of community service and banned for nine months from world football.
He was also stripped of the French captaincy.
The incident also led to the now-famous quote from Cantona. At a press conference the former United star said: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”
Simmons himself was later tried for threatening language and behaviour and served 24 hours of his sentence.
The incident happened on January 25 1995 after Cantona was sent off by the referee for kicking a Palace defender. As he was being escorted from the pitch, he broke away and launched his kung fu style kick into the crowd, his foot connecting with Simmons.
Cantona had been forced to endure verbal abuse and racist insults throughout the game, which he claimed had driven him to react the way he did.
It later transpired Simmons had previous criminal convictions, including an attempted robbery in 1992 when he attacked a Sri Lankan man with a spanner.
And the local connection doesn’t end with Baggott. Downpatrick rock band Ash used a photograph of the kick — with permission — on the cover of their single Kung Fu.
Sourced from: The Belfast TelegraphReuse content