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"Once we sorted out the initial scenario and then obviously backed Eric to the hilt, to be fair he never sought to say he hadn't done anything wrong and set out what his position was."

- Maurice Watkins, ManUtd.com

01/12/2012 12:24, Report by Adam Marshall
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Watkins' view: Selhurst saga

Watkins was thrust into the limelight with sections of the media calling for the harshest of punishments for the United striker from the authorities.

"It was an unbelievable case," he accepts. "A legal periodical at the time said it was the most famous common assault in the history of the English legal system. It was one of those kind of cases you may never get - it was unique because of all the things that happened.

"Once we sorted out the initial scenario we then obviously backed Eric to the hilt, to be fair he never sought to say he hadn't done anything wrong and he set out what his position was. He never deviated from that from the beginning, through the hearing with the FA and also the court case.

"What happened when Eric appeared before the bench was he was sent down for 14 days and it was really unexpected as the sentence was imposed because of who he was rather than the seriousness of the case. It went against all the sentencing guidelines and he was put into the holding cells in court.

"We had to dash down to the Crown Court, which fortunately wasn't far away, and made an application for bail and appealed against the sentence. We'd also made an application for bail in the Magistrates Court, immediately after he'd been sent down and although it was unopposed by the prosecutor it was turned down again by the Magistrates which was unbelievable. 

"So we had to get our skates on and, thankfully, the Crown Court was helpful and it went before a senior judge and he granted the bail application and fixed the appeal for just a week later. When it came before the court, the judge sat with two lay magistrates and changed the sentence to 120 hours of community service.

"Matthew Simmons actually got a stiffer sentence than Eric did when his case eventually came to court. It took a long time because there were suggestions he couldn't get a fair trial but he was convicted in a more serious case than Eric's."

Cantona took his punishment seriously and committed himself fully to training local schoolchildren before making an emotional return to action against Liverpool in front of a packed Old Trafford. 

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