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Bruce: Cantona was a different class

Wed, Mar 30, 2011

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Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has revealed that the greatest footballer he has ever played with was Eric Cantona, and that he was one of the most interesting characters he had ever come across in the game.

Bruce captained Cantona while they both played for Manchester United in the 1990s.

Speaking at a recent event at Rainton Meadows Arena, in answer to the question ‘who is the best player you’ve ever played with?’

Bruce had only one answer: “Well, I played with some fantastic individuals: Bryan Robson, Ryan Giggs and many others but the one who stands out was Cantona.

“He was such a mercurial character and he could do things with football that very few other people could.”

Bruce recounted events after Cantona’s famous kung-fu kick on Matthew Simmons: “It was all going off in the dressing room at Selhurst after that. There were crowds of people everywhere, police dogs and helicopters, you name it, it was happening.

“We’d all come off the pitch and Eric was in the shower and we knew what was going on outside. We were obviously concerned about him considering what had happened.

“Eric appeared out of the shower with this massive cut on his back where he’d hit the advertising board and I just said ‘Are you alright Eric?’ and he looked up at me and said ‘I think I’m in a bit of trouble here.

“I said ‘trouble? I think you’re in a bit more than that son.’ ”

Cantona was banned for eight months in total, missing the remainder of the 1994-95 season as a result of the incident, but it was the aftermath of the press conference that Bruce said gave the true measure of the man:

“I asked him, I said ‘Eric, where did you get all that stuff about seagulls and sardines and what-not that you told the press?’

“I couldn’t work out it if it was some sort of philosophy or poetry or if he’d just come up with it to give them something to write.

“He looked at me, paused for a second and with a little smile said: “Steve, I don’t have any idea where it came from… but it was good though wasn’t it?”

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