Terrace songsmith Pete Boyle on the magic of Eric, on and off the pitch…
A lot of footballers spend their nights out at trendy bars and clubs in Manchester, but that was never really Eric’s thing. One of his favourite haunts was The Peveril of the Peak pub in the centre of town. He could go and just be left alone. At the same time he would happily chat to locals.
The first time I met Eric was in that very pub back in 1994. It was quite a surreal moment because I’d been upstairs rehearsing one of my songs and I actually had the lyrics for ‘Eric the King’ in my hand. The landlady told me there was someone downstairs I might want to meet. Eric was playing table football at the time and when I saw him I was completely star-struck.
My mate behind the bar always knew me as being a real loudmouth, but I could barely speak at this point. He told Eric I wrote songs about him and he was interested to know more. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know him over the years and he’s a brilliant guy. And he just loves the fans.
When he came to Manchester for Sir Alex’s statue unveiling, Eric asked me if he could come to The Bishop Blaize pub, where I was holding a special Cantona tribute night, to see the fans. He just loves mixing with the people and, as usual, he spent ages signing autographs and posing for photos. Nothing is ever too much trouble for him.
Eric formed a bond with a lot of people when he was here at Old Trafford, on and off the pitch. His football was totally breathtaking, he was an inspiration to his team-mates and the fans and a lot of people who weren’t United fans begrudgingly respected him.