Yours truly got to meet footballer turned moviestar Eric Cantona on Tuesday night for the Irish Premiere of his latest film 'Looking For Eric'. This was the very hairy Frenchman's first appearance in Ireland since 1995 when he was over with to see a young Manchester United side play a charity match against an International Select side at Windsor Park in Belfast (and my Dad got the plane back to Manchester with him, but that's a story for another day!).
King Cantona was late arriving to the Smithfield venue in Dublin, but that's typical Eric - leaving it late as usual. 6:30pm we were told... and true to form approximately 45 minutes later Eric makes his much anticipated arrival. It took me back to a winter's night at St James' Park in 1996 with United all but surrendering the title to Newcastle, then up popped Cantona late on to fire the Red Devils to yet another league success. He was good at that.
But tonight was all about Eric's fancy footwork on the red carpet, not the green grass of the football pitch. His red shirt of United was swapped for an all-grey attire this time - however, you have to wonder had he not learnt his lesson after the 'Grey-kit fiasco' United were embroiled in during the 90's! Never-the-less, suited and booted (Nike, by the way) the King had made his entrance much to the delight of the hundreds of jubilant fans who had turned out in force - many of whom were children who were probably wondering what the whole fuss was about. I knew what is was about, it was about a United legend. One of the greatest at that.
Even Roy Keane agreed, "Collar turned up, back straight, chest stuck out, he glided into the arena as if he owned the f**king place. Any arena, but nowhere more effectively than Old Trafford. This was his stage. He loved it, the crowd loved him. The players loved him too, for many reasons. Most importantly he got the job done."
My one regret was not getting a picture with the man himself. Autographs just don't seem as special as they did back in the day. But hey, who's complaining - I'm just delighted he graced my piece of paper with my pen!
A man of few words. A man of great phrases. Eric had it all. Who could forget... "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown in to the sea".
We knew what you meant Eric. We'll raise one of those sardines in memory of what you contributed to the world of football... and we'll throw it into the sea as a toast to your arrival on the film scene. Good luck to you, our Crazy Kung-Fu King.