Eric says Oui to County

Exclusive by Jim Dolan

Ross County last night shook Scottish football to its foundations by signing disgraced superstar Eric Cantona - and he could line up against Queen's Park at Victoria Park this afternoon.

It's a dream come true for the French superstar Eric Cantona as he meets Ross County manager Bobby Wilson for the big signing.

The go-ahead Third Division club believes that the Frenchman's crowd-pulling antics will ensure a full house in the new 1.200 seater stand, which should be completed by the start of next season.

County believe the fiery former Manchester United star and French international skipper will give them the final impetus they need to clinch promotion to the Second Division in their first season at senior level.

Manager Bobby Wilson has secured backing from an unnamed whisky distillery willing to invest 10 million in return for the publicity the audacious coup has generated.

An over-the-moon Bobby said last night: "It's a dream come true. Apparantly there is a little-known loophole that bans him from playing anywhere in the world - except Scotland - and I am most grateful to Alex Ferguson for pointing it out.

Eric doesn't meed the money - and we have promised to return him to Manchester United sometime next season if we are not involved in the promotion race for the First Division."

Cantona, released yesterday from the threat of a two-week jail sentence, has been involved in talks with the County management over the past few weeks and finally put pen to paper yesterday - minutes before the transfer deadline.

The attraction for Cantona is that the ban imposed by Manchester United folowing his two-footed attach on a Crystal Palace support applies only to English and world football, but not Scotland, which has it's own legal system.

That leaves him free to play in the Scottish League, where he fells his style of flowing, attacking football would be ideally suited.

"This move will allow me to keep match fit without having to move to Italy or Germany" said Cantona. "I have had a couple of approaches from Scottish clubs, including Aberdeen and Motherwell, but I feel that Ross County is a club on the rise, with a great atmosphere at home matches.

"I like the fact that the crowd is so close to the touchline. It is much more intimate than Old Trafford or Selhurst Park. I am sure the spectators will get a kick out of this transfer and my only regret is that County have left that Press and Journal Highland League, where I have always wanted to play."

Wilson, delighted with the signing, has already approached local schools to inquire about the possibility of his star signing working part-time as a French teacher to fill in his spare time.

The only stumbling block is the 120 hours community service imposed by the courts in place of the original prison sentence. Cantona's lawyers were last night checking whether he would be allowed to perform the work in Dingwall.

"We feel his experience would be invaluable in advising local youngsters on how to keep out of trouble. His calming influence could work wonders," said Wilson. And last night former Dons star Alex McLeish, now manager of Motherwell, revealed how his Fir Park side had been hoping to land the explosive Frenchman's signature, unaware that County were in before them or Aberdeen, the other interested party.

Big Alex said: "We would have loved Cantona at Fir Park, but we already have three foreigners on the books, and, anyway, he is too similar in style to Dougie Arnott.

"But Ross County have shown great foresight in bringing Eric north. I thought we were ambitious at Fir Park, but Bobby Wilson seems to have trumped us all."

Manchester United legal director Maurice Watkins, Cantona's solicitor, said the Frenchman will start "at least getting into" his community service order on Monday.

There is a maximum of 21hr you can do over seven days. I'm sure they will want to make the best use of his services."

The SFA's Highland and Islands area community development officer - former Everton, Norwich and Dundee striker Ross Jack - intends to do just that.

He said: "We'll use Eric's talents to the full on out youth developement programme. Most of the kids involved on the West Coast are Gaelic speakers, so he won't have any more of a language problem to cope with than I already have."

Press and Journal - April 1st, 1995

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