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Match of the Day debate – what needs to change to close the gap on Sky Sports

Colin Murray has gone… but does Match of the Day need a proper shake-up to close the gap on the champions at Sky Sports

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But pillorying MOTD is no fun. For many of us, it was the football programme to watch when we were growing up; the first show of each new season was eagerly anticipated and some of the analysis and comment provided has stood the test of time.

Remember when Alan Hansen famously declared that 'you will win nothing with kids' back in August 1995 about Manchester United Hansen may have been proven wrong but that is exactly the type of thought-provoking, headline grabbing conjecture it needs to regain.

So after jettisoning Murray how does the BBC, whose first live football commentary – a game between Arsenal and Sheffield United at Highbury – was broadcast 86 years ago today, continue to make the improvements required that will get the MOTD brand back to the required standard

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

For starters, let the pundits argue. It is tedious letting a presenter ask questions to one man; let the pundits ask questions of each other, let them get wound up. It will show the audience they care and are taking their duties seriously. Nobody ever wants to hear one side of the story.

How about actually sending one of the pundits to a game and doing a brief video diary, getting their reaction immediately after a goal has been scored or a red card has been shown The footage could then be shown after the highlights on MotD and debated accordingly.

Biggest of all, though, why not have a proper shake up of the pundits Some, plainly, are not doing enough. Others state the obvious and making banal observations. If they are not taking their role seriously, find someone who will – and there will be fresh options available next summer.

Leading the way: Gary Neville, Graeme Souness and Jamie Redknapp are key to Sky's success

Leading the way: Gary Neville, Graeme Souness and Jamie Redknapp are key to Sky's success

Another idea would to bring the time the show starts forward; why not aim for 9pm or earlier Let’s be honest, losing Casualty from a prime time slot would not be greeted with dismay – seeing Match of the Day continue to dwindle, however, would be cause for sorrow.

At least in wielding the axe on Murray, a man for whom the mute button was invented, the BBC have recognised that a revamp is required and Chapman, who has a great sporting knowledge and is a journalist, will ask proper questions.

But if the questions that are being aimed at MOTD are to go away, losing Murray cannot be the only change.

So, how would you fix Match of the Day Sportsmail's experts give their verdict…

Charles Sale

There's
a big need for BBC to freshen up the pundits on both Match of the Day
shows . If Liverpool’s insightful Jamie Carragher decides to retire at
the end of the season, he would be an excellent signing for the Beeb but Sky, BT Sport and ITV will also be chasing him.

Follow Charles Sale on Twitter @charliesale

Matt Barlow

Never mind the face for radio and nasal northern tones, Mark Chapman's direct style is the perfect antidote to the failed Murray experiment. He will not sneer and swerve the news issues in an effort to ingratiate himself to famous people on the sofa and he chairs Five Live's Monday Night Club superbly, balancing the weekend issues with the week ahead.

Support him with stronger pundits, pitch for topical guests and generate proper debate. Assuming they can't poach Gary Neville or Graeme Souness from Sky, at least try to bring back Lee Dixon from ITV.

Maybe give Jamie Carragher a whirl. Drop the goofy cartoons and the obsession with big names with bland opinions and dull delivery like Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.

Follow Matt Barlow on Twitter @Matt_Barlow_DM

Insight: Jamie Carragher

Legend: Jamie Carragheris nearing retirement at Liverpool

Insight: Jamie Carragher could fancy a pundit's role when he finally retires at Liverpool

Neil Ashton

Ray Wilkins. Any former player turned professional analyst who takes the time out to go to a match unpaid to watch a player specifically to gen up on them merits a place on the sofa of any football programme.

Wilkins did just that last Saturday, heading to Selhurst Park to watch Wilfried Zaha in action for Crystal Palace against Bolton: 'I've never seen him and when I'm asked about him on Sky I want to be able to be able to talk from a position of strength,' he told me.

It was impressive, if only because it is so rare (Jim White on Sky Sports News is also fanatical about detail and goes to games whenever he can). This should be normal practice for any television football analyst.

Match of the Day could improve their coverage no end by making their analysts go to matches and heading back to the studio full of enthusiasm. It would give them the chance to speak to people at the game from 'their world' – coaches, managers, scourts and former players – and pick up the insight and gold dust that the viewers are begging for in the modern era. Sitting in front of a bank of television screens watching a game does nothing to motivate the guests – get them out there.

Follow Neil Ashton on Twitter @neilashton_

Dedication: Ray Wilkins does his research when it comes to analysing players

Dedication: Ray Wilkins does his research when it comes to analysing players

Talent: BBC's presenter Dan Walker

Talent: BBC's presenter Dan Walker

Laura Williamson

Lighten things up, add a bit of humour and make MOTD2 distinct from Saturday's show by all means, but the programme's aim is to show football highlights, not launch careers in daytime TV.

The excuse for the dire levels of 'analysis' on Match of the Day is the number of games and the lack of time, but there's no such get-out clause on a Sunday night.

A decent pundit like Lee Dixon could really make a name for themselves, but they need a journalist in the presenter's chair to help them do that. Just please, BBC, do not let Robbie 'For me' Savage or Alan 'I'm only here on a Sunday because I went to Anfield yesterday' Hansen anywhere near that studio in Salford. Freshen things up a bit.

Dan Walker would be an ideal presenter but he chooses not to work on Sundays and Jack Humphrey has joined BT, so Mark Chapman does fit the bill.

Less 'Chappers' and more 'Mark' and I might finally be able to stop fast-forwarding the inane chatter between matches.

Follow Laura Williamson on Twitter @laura_mail

Mark Alford

Adrian
Chiles. There I've typed it. His stint on MOTD2 was arguably the best
broadcasting of his career. He actually challenged those tired old pros
to deliver some proper analysis. And his on-screen chemistry with wee
Gordon Strachan made Sunday nights less sermon, more fun.

I'd
also bring back L

ee Dixon – top insight, clever analysis, decent bloke –
and create a special ref's room for Sportsmail's Graham Poll to deliver
his 'official line' on contentious incidents (just keep him focused on
the officials). Oh, and Beckham's free, isn't he I'd be interested to see if there's anything in there…

Follow Mark Alford on Twitter @AlfieDM

Ian Ladyman

My ideal anchor would be Mark Chapman so am delighted to see that he has been given the job. He has the right touch, understands his football and has enough confidence to guide and control his guests rather than indulge and pander to them as others have.

In the experts’ chair I would throw money at Gary Neville and if that didn’t work – which it probably wouldn’t – I would ask Graeme Souness and Lee Dixon if they fancied being the regulars. I would abandon recent attempts to use current players and managers as they rarely say anything of note.

I like Mark Alford’s suggestion of having a referee on hand to explain contentious decisions.

Follow Ian Ladyman on Twitter @Ian_Ladyman_DM

Official line: Graham Poll could offer his expertise on referee decisions

Official line: Graham Poll could offer his expertise on referee decisions

Heads up: Phil Neville has shown potential as a pundit

Heads up: Phil Neville has shown potential as a pundit

Matt Lawton

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Match of the Day. For me there’s nobody better than Gary Lineker when it comes to anchoring the show. But I would mix things up a bit on the sofa.

If we accept that Gary Neville, Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Souness are lost to Sky forever, I’d bring in guys like Phil Neville more regularly. Jamie Carragher would be brilliant. You want good talkers with great knowledge and strong opinions.

Follow Matt Lawton on Twitter @Matt_Lawton_DM

Sami Mokbel

Lee Dixon and Ian Wright. Both played for Arsenal, but couldn't be different in terms of their TV personas. Dixon was analysis brilliant during Euro 2012 and he has continued that on ITV this season. But given the channel's lack of live football, he is severely underused. His insight is first class.

Wright, on the other hand, is impulsive, open to snap judgements and uncomfortable to watch at times. But he is compulsive viewing. Together they would be an MOTD match made in heaven.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @SamiMokbel81_DM

Could you handle it Ian Wright divides opinion on the TV

Could you handle it Ian Wright divides opinion on the TV

Lee Clayton

There
IS quality in the existing MOTD team, they just need to freshen it up.
How many of its viewers have seen Hansen or Lawrenson play Sky add
Jamie Redknapp then Gary Neville and will freshen it up again this
summer. They have the best live coverage, the best highlights programme
(Goals on Sunday) and the Beeb has been left behind.

More analysis,
insight and use of Prozone or Opta stats to back up their argument. Gary
Lineker is still the No 1 football presenter, but Mark Pougatch from 5 Live would be ahead of 'Chappers' in my line-up. Or if you want a
completely different programme on Sunday nights for the follow-up, how
about Danny Baker Excellent broadcaster, football fan and all-round Mr
know-it-all.

Follow Lee Clayton on Twitter @LeeClayton_

Colin Young

Put Goals On Sunday on BBC1 on Sunday night, the programme fronted by Jeff Stelling with his enthusiasm and love of the game alongside Chris Kamara. Kammy's insight and analysis of games and key incidents is always well researched, spot on and interesting.

The array of his Sunday guests would be welcome on the MOTD sofa too but the pick of the pundits right now is definitely Gordon Strachan. Hope he can manage Scotland as well as he can talk.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @cyoungdailymail

Passion: Danny Baker

Passion: Chris Kamara

Passion: Both Danny Baker (left) and Chris Kamara love the game and have a huge following

Neil Moxley

I'd
like to see a former pro in the hot-seat a la Lineker. I think the BBC
should look towards Matt Holland, clearly a little bit above the norm as
far as ex-footballers go. Lee Dixon should be the MOTD2 analyst.

Then
I'd like to see some input from the officials – either a current or
former ref – but only for them to provide insight on refereeing
decisions – any other comments would leave them open to claims of bias.
Finally, get a current manager or player to fill in the line-up.

Follow Neil Moxley on Twitter @Neil_Moxley_DM

Paul Newman

The thing about Match of the Day 2 is
that it dared to be different and certainly should be different to the
Saturday show. The sight of Alan Hansen on there this season has made my
heart sink. Colin Murray might not be everyone's cup of tea but I liked
the irreverence. Adrian Chiles was at his best when he presented the
programme.

Follow Paul Newman on Twitter @newman_cricket

Guiding hand: Adrian Chiles (right) was lured to ITV from the BBC

Guiding hand: Adrian Chiles (right) was lured to ITV from the BBC

Les Snowdon

It is time for the Beeb to build this increasingly important programme around a retired pro with genuine insight and opinion.

Step forward Jamie Carragher…the presenter needs to be a journalist who is not afraid to pursue genuine news lines and who can tease the best out of Carragher.

Luke Benedict

Gabby Logan. This is an opportunity to give MOTD2 the makeover it so desperately needs. In the modern Premier League era, Sunday hosts the bigger, better matches yet the flagship highlights show has descended into fluffy guff. Cut the painful, MTV-style build-ups and just show us the highlights. Then talk about it.

The programme needs to be anchored by a specialist broadcast journalist who can bring the expertise out of former players turned pundits – who otherwise revel in banal banter if the studio descends into an old boys' club.

Follow Luke Benedict on Twitter @L_Benedict_DM

Mike Anstead

Match of the Day is stale. Gary Lineker is a good presenter but he is let down by tired, cliched pundits like Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. They look like they are bored of football. Most viewers are bored of them.

Losing Lee Dixon was a big blow. He brought intelligence analysis and insight. You could tell he had done his research. Perhaps they need to bring him back.

Sky hit a crossroads when Andy Gray and Richard Keys left. But they tackled the problem head-on by going for Gary Neville and promoting bright young talent like Ed Chamberlain. The BBC are also at a similar junction – but they need to attack the root of the problem.

Michael Owen and Phil Neville both have potential, but they'd need tough training and commitment like Neville at Sky. You'v

e got to want to be a pundit. And how about James Richardson as host I last saw him presenting World's Strongest Man. What a waste.

Follow Mike Anstead on Twitter @mike_anstead

Alex Kay

Gary Richardson. He asks probing, intelligent questions every Sunday morning on the radio. It is rare a news line does not come out of his show. We want proper analysis and journalism – not quirky, patronising nonsense.

Follow Alex Kay on Twitter @Alex_Kay_DM

Laurie Whitwell

He
would probably think it the worst idea initially, but if Paul Scholes
could be convinced how valued his opinion would prove I would switch on
each week. He knows the game inside out, has played in all manner of
situations, and in my eyes is the most talented player Englishman of his
generation.

So his
insight and knowledge would prove fascinating. He would be able to
disect match action with precision and perhaps provide dressing room
tidbits. Once he retires for good, of course.

Follow Laurie Whitwell on Twitter @lauriewhitwell

Phil Gradwell

I would get Lee Dixon back. I feel he is marginalised at ITV and is not really suited to the pre-match/half-time/full-time pundit role, especially when ‘straight-talking’ Roy Keane takes over. Dixon is much better when he has had time to analyse a match and can pick out incidents and make you see something slightly differently.

At the moment, I rarely watch the analysis on MOTD as I don’t think they’ll tell me anything I didn’t already know, whereas Dixon does.

Follow Phil Gradwell on Twitter @GraddersOnline

Chris Cutmore

The last thing Match of the Day needs is another matey-matey, back-slapping host to massage the egos of the old boys by bringing up their past glories. It needs someone not afraid to ask real, probing questions, a journalist rather than an ex pro – how about the superb Ian Dennis of 5Live

But, frankly, a new presenter isn’t enough to shake MOTD out of its slumber (Alan Hansen certainly sleepwalks his way through each episode). So let’s take a broom and clear out the tired old pundits and the squeaky, hyperventilating commentators while we’re at it.

Follow Chris Cutmore on Twitter @Chris_Cutmore

James Andrew

James Richardson is the man the BBC need to breath new life into Match of the Day. The presenter was hugely popular as the face of Football Italia in the 90s. His relaxed style of presenting would suit the MOTD2 format yet he is informed enough to ask the key questions.

As for pundits, a younger breed is needed, people who can relate to the game today, not the 1980s. Danny Murphy is being groomed by Sky and is someone who is intelligent and articulate, so if the BBC could poach him he could provide fresh insight.

Follow James Andrew on Twitter @JamesAndrew_

Alex Horlock

I'd give Mark Pougatch a shot at hosting. He's been in the game for years on BBC 5Live and has done a tremendous job time and again. He's been covering the live football to an incredibly high standard with the Beeb and has proven how capable he is to entice listeners. What little he's done on television, he's looked assured. To accompany him, I'd keep Alan Hansen and make sure Pat Nevin was on the panel every week – he's a near-flawless pundit.

Follow Alex Horlock on Twitter @alexhorlock

Steven Gerrard is the best Liverpool have ever had, says Jamie Carragher

Gerrard is the best player Liverpool have ever had, says Anfield pal Carragher

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

09:47 GMT, 21 January 2013

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UPDATED:

09:47 GMT, 21 January 2013

Steven Gerrard was heralded as Liverpool's greatest player ever by team-mate Jamie Carragher after the England captain was honoured by the Football Writers' Association at a gala tribute dinner in London.

The 32-year-old midfielder collected the prestigious accolade from FWA chairman Andy Dunn, of the Sunday Mirror.

Hitting the heights: Steven Gerrard is Liverpool's greatest, says Jamie Carragher

Hitting the heights: Steven Gerrard is Liverpool's greatest, says Jamie Carragher

Tributes were paid by former manager Gerard Houllier, who brought Gerrard into the Liverpool first team as a raw youngster, and his long-serving team-mate Carragher, while former Reds boss Kenny Dalglish also passed on his congratulations as he was unable to attend.

Carragher is in no doubt of Gerrard's place among Anfield legends. 'I think we are in the presence of the greatest player ever to play for Liverpool,' said Carragher.

'People will say I am biased because we are good friends and because of the trophies we have won together, but it is a fair accolade to give him.

No 1: Carragher paid tribute to Gerrard following his latest award

No 1: Carragher paid tribute to Gerrard following his latest award

'There are guys like Kenny [Dalglish], Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, all world-class players, but the difference was they were in a world-class team – and Stevie has not played in a world-class team.'

Carragher added: 'Stevie's one strength is he has no weakness, he can run, tackle pass and score goals.

'Football is a team game, but special players do special things at special times, and that is Steven Gerrard.'

Former Liverpool striker Rush and England manager Roy Hodgson were among the guests at The Savoy, along with current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

Nigel Adkins finally faces boyhood team Liverpool

Treat for Saints manager Adkins as he finally gets to face his boyhood team

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 30 November 2012

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has wanted to face Liverpool for years – and is finally getting the opportunity.

The 47-year-old was a schoolboy at Liverpool when he was a young goalkeeper before eventually signing his first professional contract at Tranmere.

When he was manager at Scunthorpe every time the club were in the third-round FA Cup draw he hoped his hometown club would be pulled out of the bag.

Fun times: Nigel Adkins will enjoy going to Anfield... provided Luis Suarez doesn't run riot

Fun times: Nigel Adkins will enjoy going to Anfield… provided Luis Suarez doesn't run riot

That never happened – but back-to-back promotions has meant he no longer needs to rely on a lucky cup draw to face his former club and will head to Anfield for the first time on Saturday.

Adkins said: 'We will relish going to a big stadium like Liverpool. I have good memories of Liverpool. I remember training with Ray Clemence and saving a penalty from Graeme Souness in a practice game and playing alongside Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish in small-sides games.

'I enjoyed being at Anfield as a player and I’m looking forward to going there as a manager'

The Saints boss learned a lot from his time at Liverpool and their ethics still influence his managerial decisions today.

He added: 'You grow up with the history of Liverpool Football Club. When you are there it models your thoughts – the culture surrounding it. There were close-knit training session in the evenings with the likes of Roy Evans, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan around. Bob Paisley would give us a team talk before a FA Youth Cup game.

'They have always had this continuity and the next manager would always come through the system and they kept that continuity which was good. It showed that they had close-knit group of staff who all contribute in a big way.'

He is not the only one at Southampton to dream of going to Anfield. Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has been a Liverpool fan since his time as an academy player in France. He said when he was growing up in France people either chose the Merseyside club or Manchester United but his mind was made up watching them come back against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

Collection duty: Morgan Schneiderlin (right) might pick up a few Liverpool shirts

Collection duty: Morgan Schneiderlin (right) might pick up a few Liverpool shirts

He said: 'I was in an academy in Strasbourg and we were watching the game in the same room, there were just an amazing atmosphere, 40 young players were watching that game. It was an amazing moment and I picked them.'

The 23-year-old has already has his friends in France on the phone trying to persuade him to get various players shirts after the match. He has always been a huge fan of Steven Gerrard and will get his shirt first – but only if Southampton win today.

Schneiderlin added: 'Some friends already called me and said “Morgan bring me the shirt, bring me the shirt”. I'm not focussed on that but I will see at the end of the game if we win I will ask for some shirts. If we lose I will be in the shower as quick as possible and gone.'

If Saints win today you might see a young midfielder running around collecting as many Liverpool shirts as possible after the final whistle.

Eric Cantona: Jamie Redknapp, Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson share their memories

It's 20 years since the best 1million signing of all time. Here the key players recall the reign of King Cantona

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UPDATED:

10:34 GMT, 24 November 2012

RETURN OF THE KING…

Click here to read the full story of how Eric Cantona and other Manchester United greats travelled back to Old Trafford to watch the unveiling of Sir Alex Ferguson's statue.

It was a transfer that shocked English football, paved the way for Manchester United's first Premier League title and helped to define the modern game in this country as we know it.

Eric Cantona's 1million switch from champions Leeds United to arch-rivals Manchester United was as unexpected as it was sudden.

It happened 20 years ago this weekend and, arguably, it proved to be the catalyst United manager Sir Alex Ferguson needed to propel him and his club to two decades of dominance in England.

Sportsmail talks to key figures and includes book extracts to detail Cantona's time in the Premier League.

Hero: Eric Cantona was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for 1million and was an instant hit with the Manchester United fans

Hero: Eric Cantona was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for 1million and was an instant hit with the Manchester United fans

Trevor Francis
Sheffield Wednesday manager 1990 to 1994. Had Cantona on 'trial' in January 1992.

I had Cantona at Wednesday for a few days before he signed for Leeds but I don't think it was ever reported as it should have been.

I was doing a favour for the agent, Dennis Roach. He took me to Italy as a player.

He and Michel Platini wanted to get Eric back playing. He had retired from French football and Dennis wondered if I would have a little look at him in training.

Graeme Souness at Liverpool had already said no. I was happy to do Platini a favour but it was built up as if I was looking to sign Eric, which was never ever a consideration.

He was here to do a few days training and basically put himself in the shop window.

We weren't able to get on the grass at the training ground because of the bad weather so we went on to an astroturf area and had a little kick around up there.

There was also an indoor tournament at Sheffield Arena and he had a kick-around in that.

Goal getter: Cantona was prolific up front for Ferguson

Goal getter: Cantona was prolific up front for Ferguson

We said we would like him to stay for a few more days training for him to enjoy himself and for us to have a little look at him but I think his manager took that as a little bit of an insult.

They regarded it as: 'He is Eric Cantona. He isn't going to be a player on trial'.

The whole thing got a little bit messy and he came to me and said: 'I have got a chance to go to Leeds'.

So he had my blessing and off he went to Leeds and that's basically it.

I have never really put my side of the story, but that's how it was, chapter and verse.

We had only just come in to the top league and the majority of our players were on Championship or Division Two contracts.

To even contemplate getting Cantona into our 'little' Sheffield Wednesday team was never really a starter.

It was never a consideration of mine to bring Eric Cantona to the club.

It was only a phone call and a bit of a favour that I was doing for a couple of friends. The rest is history. He went to Leeds and did okay.

At United he was incredible.

Gary McAllister
Leeds midfielder 1990-1996

Eric came to us mid-season when the title race was on.

We were getting to that time of the season, that tickly bit at the end. It was all very tense. Eric changed the crowd.

They loved him.

They loved the swagger and the confident air and maybe when other players may have been thinking: 'It is looking like a nil-nil here', he lifted the whole of Elland Road just by coming on the pitch.

Looking back, I think Howard Wilkinson used him perfectly.

Welcome to Manchester: Ferguson was ecstatic to get Cantona for just 1million

Welcome to Manchester: Ferguson was ecstatic to get Cantona for just 1million

Howard Wilkinson
Leeds manager 1988-1996. Signed Cantona in January 1992 and sold him in the November.

If you examine his contribution to the championship season it's nowhere near as significant as has been written since.

It's Russian history. I know some of the boys were slightly offended when it was referred to as 'Cantona's Championship'.

Eric made a very, very useful contribution. He was a good trainer and a good member of the team and one hell of a player.

At football clubs, some things happen that are best kept in the club. All I can say is that it was not my decision (for him) to leave, it was Eric's decision.

I was faced with a player who was sitting in France and was saying he was not going to come back and play at Leeds. So I didn't have a choice.

The King: Cantona helped Manchester United to their first Premier League title after leaving Leeds

The King: Cantona helped Manchester United to their first Premier League title after leaving Leeds

Lee Chapman Leeds striker 1990-1993

There were rumours at the time about Eric and some of the Leeds players' wives, but they weren't true.

No truth whatsoever. Eric wasn't that type of person. I think the fans had to have a reason why he left and they wouldn't accept that he and Howard had simply fallen out.

Howard has to have players who tow the line and Eric wasn't very good at that.

Eric was okay when he was in the team but not when he was out of the team. He wasn't really a great team man.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United manager. Signed Cantona on November 26 1992.

How he arrived at our doorstep, in a deal that lasted just 24 hours from first call to final signing, was quite incredible.

The scene was the chairman's office on a drizzly day in November. Martin Edwards and I were running through our target list of top strikers.

An offer for David Hirst had been knocked back. Immediate action was imperative. The goals had dried up.

Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football

Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football

It was like a bad memory returning from the season before. I mentioned it was a pity we didn't get a sniff a season earlier when Cantona was first brought to this country.

Then the phone rang for Martin; on the other end was Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby, sounding us out about Denis Irwin.

The timing was weird, absolutely uncanny. I scribbled Eric's name on a scrap of paper and eased it across the desk.

Immediately, Martin tuned in. 'Any chance of you selling him and we'd be interested. Need to know pretty quick, mind you.'

Within the hour Leeds were back and the haggling started.

Martin Edwards
Former Manchester United chairman.

The figure quoted is always 1.2million, but we actually paid just 1million for Eric.

Bill Fotherby said they would sell for 1.6m. I said it was too much.

We haggled, and in the end we agreed at 1m. I think Leeds wanted it to be known that the figure was higher, because they knew the fans would be up in arms as it was.

But it was 1m. When I told Alex we had got him at that price he was delighted, and very excited.

Alex and I then went to meet Eric at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Eric needed to hear that he was going to play regularly, and how Alex intended to use him, and after that it was just a case of he and I discussing how much we would pay him.

Cult hero: Cantona was popular with both players and fans

Cult hero: Cantona was popular with both players and fans

It all went very smoothly. When I look back at the signings I oversaw at Old Trafford, Eric was one of the two best I made; Peter Schmeichel being the other one.

Eric was the catalyst for the success we enjoyed. We hadn't won the league for 26 years and he arrives and we win it four times in the next five years.

The only time we did not win during that period was the season when Eric was banned for the kung-fu attack on Matthew Simmons at Crystal Palace.

That was a mad episode but to Eric's credit, he actually agreed to a pay-cut after that incident. As a club we had to protect ourselves so we restructured the contract.

It worked out pretty well for all concerned.

Lee Sharpe Manchester United forward 1988-1996

I was doing an autograph session for my boot sponsors – in Leeds, of all places! One of the organisers turned to me and said: 'Have you heard Cantona's just signed for your lot.'

I replied: 'Yeah, right – absolutely no chance!' I turned on the radio and there it was.

Total shock. Then there were all the media stories about his past and we were like: 'This bloke's a total nutter. What are we doing!'

Basile Boli
Friend and former French team-mate

The first time I went over to see Eric in Manchester after he'd signed, he was beaming.

'Come out with me now, you've got to see this,' he urged.

We walked in the city streets and people everywhere were coming up to him, with delight on their faces, simply wanting to see him amongst them in person.

Eric just grinned and turned to whisper to me: 'You see You see They love me here. They love me!'

Wembley winner: Cantona (right) poses with Mark Hughes (left) after United beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup final

Wembley winner: Cantona (right) poses with Mark Hughes (left) after United beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup final

Richard Shaw
Crystal Palace defender fouled by Cantona at Selhurst Park on January 25 1995. Cantona was sent off and, as he left the field, attacked Simmons with a kung-fu kick. He was subsequently banned by the FA for eight months.

WHAT BECAME OF THE THE MAN HE KUNG-FU KICKED
Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football

Matthew Simmons was just 20 when Cantona launched his infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995.

Aged 17, Simmons was convicted of attempted violent robbery after he attacked a petrol station attendant with a spanner.

After the Cantona incident he lost his job and lost contact with his family.

He was charged in May 2011 for attacking his son's football coach.

He currently works in the construction industry and occasionally watches football at Chelsea and Fulham.

The ball was going over the top, I chased it back and Eric sort of kicked out.

It was just one of those crazy moments. That's just Eric's way. He was getting frustrated and maybe at times the red mist came over him.

He was sent off but I didn't see his kung-fu kick. We looked back on the Betamax afterwards and thought: 'Wow'.

Everyone was just in shock at what happened. Eric probably thought: 'Hang about, this guy's coming down abusing me.

'What gives him the right to do that Maybe I'll do something about it.'

And he did. That's what makes these players so great. They've got this devilment inside them.

I played at Old Trafford after that and got booed. For something which wasn't really my fault, I get kicked and I get booed!

I expected it because Eric is a hero. It was amazing. It happened in 1995 and people still talk about it.

Watch the video

I'll probably still get the blame for it. I don't think it hindered Eric as he came back as good as ever.

I'd played against Eric before and I played against him afterwards.

He was a great player. He always had time on the pitch. I don't know how he did it.

He was so intelligent that he could drift into areas where the centre-half didn't want to go.

People talk about this man-in-the-hole now as if it's a new phenomenon. Eric was doing that 20 years ago.

Jamie Redknapp
Liverpool midfielder who gave away the penalty from which Cantona scored on his comeback game on October 1 1995.

I was penalised for pulling down Ryan Giggs but it was a dubious decision as I won the ball.

Eric had not done much against us before that but you knew he was going to score.

He then famously ran behind the goal and swung off the stanchion to celebrate.

Sky, as is often the way, got so lucky that they were broadcasting that game.

When Cantona walked out, it was like a gladiator entering an arena. There was always something special about him.

Having said that, we passed them off the park that day.

Manager's dream: Cantona had his best years under Ferguson

Manager's dream: Cantona had his best years under Ferguson

Roy Keane
Manchester United midfielder 1993-2005

I liked him immediately. He tended to do his own thing in training, something Alex Ferguson permitted.

He also had a temper that would flare up. He and Schmeichel often found themselves at odds. Fists were raised on one or two occasions.

But behind the enigma he was a great pro, serious and knowledgable.

The players loved him. I had never seen anybody finish like him and still haven't. He was different but bloody brilliant.

In private he was funny and loved a drink, champagne rather than lager. He was a good lad, one of the best.

No conceit, no bulls***. The eccentric loner was just the public mask. I remember when he was sent off in Istanbul.

A policeman was laying in to all of us. Eric got involved. In the dressing room he went crazy.

We all wanted to get out of there but Eric wanted to go back out and sort out the rogue cop with the truncheon.

Eric was a big strong lad and insisted he was gonna 'kill that f****r'.

The manager, Brian Kidd and a few players had to restrain him.

I played in the game at Crystal Palace. My immediate reaction was: So what Fair play to Eric. I may have done the same myself.

It was a nasty incident, out of order. But my heart went out to him.

All the lads felt the same. There was no way we were gonna turn our backs on him.

Heated rivalry: Cantona leaps over a Robbie Fowler tackle during a match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 1996

Heated rivalry: Cantona leaps over a Robbie Fowler tackle during a match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 1996

Gary Neville

Manchester defender 1992-2011

We were in the Bulls Head in Hale on a team day out. It was December 1996 and Eric had pulled up a seat next to me and Becks.

We were in awe of him. Over a beer Eric told us we were gonna be Kings of Europe.

It was a big claim but Becks and I left the pub feeling invigorated, and not just because of the beer.

For Eric there wouldn't be many chances left to dominate Europe as he had the Premier League.

The rest of us weren't to know it but Eric had staked everything on winning the Champions League.

We fell short that season [United lost in the semi-final to Dortmund] and, at the age of 30, he'd decided he'd given it his best shot. Time to quit.

A few days earlier I had seen him and he had just said: 'Have a good summer. See you later'.

The way he left was typical Eric.

Inspirational: Gary Neville says he was 'invigorated' when Cantona told him they would win the Champions League

Inspirational: Gary Neville says he was 'invigorated' when Cantona told him they would win the Champions League

Ryan Giggs
Manchester United forward 1990-present

Eric confirmed his retirement a week before his 31st birthday. Were we surprised

Life with Eric was one long surprise. You never knew what he would do next.

There were no farewells or anything like that. I didn't actually really believe he meant it until he failed to turn up the following season.

Legend: Cantona was joined by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left), Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Edwin van der Sar as Ferguson's statue was unveiled at Old Trafford

Legend: Cantona was joined by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left), Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Edwin van der Sar as Ferguson's statue was unveiled at Old Trafford

Here key players including Jamie Redknapp, Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson recall Eric Cantona

It's 20 years since the best 1million signing of all time. Here the key players recall the reign of King Cantona

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UPDATED:

23:02 GMT, 23 November 2012

RETURN OF THE KING…

Click here to read the full story of how Eric Cantona and other Manchester United greats travelled back to Old Trafford to watch the unveiling of Sir Alex Ferguson's statue.

It was a transfer that shocked English football, paved the way for Manchester United's first Premier League title and helped to define the modern game in this country as we know it.

Eric Cantona's 1million switch from champions Leeds United to arch-rivals Manchester United was as unexpected as it was sudden.

It happened 20 years ago this weekend and, arguably, it proved to be the catalyst United manager Sir Alex Ferguson needed to propel him and his club to two decades of dominance in England.

Sportsmail talks to key figures and includes book extracts to detail Cantona's time in the Premier League.

Hero: Eric Cantona was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for 1million and was an instant hit with the Manchester United fans

Hero: Eric Cantona was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for 1million and was an instant hit with the Manchester United fans

Trevor Francis
Sheffield Wednesday manager 1990 to 1994. Had Cantona on 'trial' in January 1992.

I had Cantona at Wednesday for a few days before he signed for Leeds but I don't think it was ever reported as it should have been.

I was doing a favour for the agent, Dennis Roach. He took me to Italy as a player.

He and Michel Platini wanted to get Eric back playing. He had retired from French football and Dennis wondered if I would have a little look at him in training.

Graeme Souness at Liverpool had already said no. I was happy to do Platini a favour but it was built up as if I was looking to sign Eric, which was never ever a consideration.

He was here to do a few days training and basically put himself in the shop window.

We weren't able to get on the grass at the training ground because of the bad weather so we went on to an astroturf area and had a little kick around up there.

There was also an indoor tournament at Sheffield Arena and he had a kick-around in that.

Goal getter: Cantona was prolific up front for Ferguson

Goal getter: Cantona was prolific up front for Ferguson

We said we would like him to stay for a few more days training for him to enjoy himself and for us to have a little look at him but I think his manager took that as a little bit of an insult.

They regarded it as: 'He is Eric Cantona. He isn't going to be a player on trial'.

The whole thing got a little bit messy and he came to me and said: 'I have got a chance to go to Leeds'.

So he had my blessing and off he went to Leeds and that's basically it.

I have never really put my side of the story, but that's how it was, chapter and verse.

We had only just come in to the top league and the majority of our players were on Championship or Division Two contracts.

To even contemplate getting Cantona into our 'little' Sheffield Wednesday team was never really a starter.

It was never a consideration of mine to bring Eric Cantona to the club.

It was only a phone call and a bit of a favour that I was doing for a couple of friends. The rest is history. He went to Leeds and did okay.

At United he was incredible.

Gary McAllister
Leeds midfielder 1990-1996

Eric came to us mid-season when the title race was on.

We were getting to that time of the season, that tickly bit at the end. It was all very tense. Eric changed the crowd.

They loved him.

They loved the swagger and the confident air and maybe when other players may have been thinking: 'It is looking like a nil-nil here', he lifted the whole of Elland Road just by coming on the pitch.

Looking back, I think Howard Wilkinson used him perfectly.

Welcome to Manchester: Ferguson was ecstatic to get Cantona for just 1million

Welcome to Manchester: Ferguson was ecstatic to get Cantona for just 1million

Howard Wilkinson
Leeds manager 1988-1996. Signed Cantona in January 1992 and sold him in the November.

If you examine his contribution to the championship season it's nowhere near as significant as has been written since.

It's Russian history. I know some of the boys were slightly offended when it was referred to as 'Cantona's Championship'.

Eric made a very, very useful contribution. He was a good trainer and a good member of the team and one hell of a player.

At football clubs, some things happen that are best kept in the club. All I can say is that it was not my decision (for him) to leave, it was Eric's decision.

I was faced with a player who was sitting in France and was saying he was not going to come back and play at Leeds. So I didn't have a choice.

The King: Cantona helped Manchester United to their first Premier League title after leaving Leeds

The King: Cantona helped Manchester United to their first Premier League title after leaving Leeds

Lee Chapman Leeds striker 1990-1993

There were rumours at the time about Eric and some of the Leeds players' wives, but they weren't true.

No truth whatsoever. Eric wasn't that type of person. I think the fans had to have a reason why he left and they wouldn't accept that he and Howard had simply fallen out.

Howard has to have players who tow the line and Eric wasn't very good at that.

Eric was okay when he was in the team but not when he was out of the team. He wasn't really a great team man.

Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United manager. Signed Cantona on November 26 1992.

How he arrived at our doorstep, in a deal that lasted just 24 hours from first call to final signing, was quite incredible.

The scene was the chairman's office on a drizzly day in November. Martin Edwards and I were running through our target list of top strikers.

An offer for David Hirst had been knocked back. Immediate action was imperative. The goals had dried up.

Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football

Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football

It was like a bad memory returning from the season before. I mentioned it was a pity we didn't get a sniff a season earlier when Cantona was first brought to this country.

Then the phone rang for Martin; on the other end was Leeds chairman Bill Fotherby, sounding us out about Denis Irwin.

The timing was weird, absolutely uncanny. I scribbled Eric's name on a scrap of paper and eased it across the desk.

Immediately, Martin tuned in. 'Any chance of you selling him and we'd be interested. Need to know pretty quick, mind you.'

Within the hour Leeds were back and the haggling started.

Martin Edwards
Former Manchester United chairman.

The figure quoted is always 1.2million, but we actually paid just 1million for Eric.

Bill Fotherby said they would sell for 1.6m. I said it was too much.

We haggled, and in the end we agreed at 1m. I think Leeds wanted it to be known that the figure was higher, because they knew the fans would be up in arms as it was.

But it was 1m. When I told Alex we had got him at that price he was delighted, and very excited.

Alex and I then went to meet Eric at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. Eric needed to hear that he was going to play regularly, and how Alex intended to use him, and after that it was just a case of he and I discussing how much we would pay him.

Cult hero: Cantona was popular with both players and fans

Cult hero: Cantona was popular with both players and fans

It all went very smoothly. When I look back at the signings I oversaw at Old Trafford, Eric was one of the two best I made; Peter Schmeichel being the other one.

Eric was the catalyst for the success we enjoyed. We hadn't won the league for 26 years and he arrives and we win it four times in the next five years.

The only time we did not win during that period was the season when Eric was banned for the kung-fu attack on Matthew Simmons at Crystal Palace.

That was a mad episode but to Eric's credit, he actually agreed to a pay-cut after that incident. As a club we had to protect ourselves so we restructured the contract.

It worked out pretty well for all concerned.

Lee Sharpe Manchester United forward 1988-1996

I was doing an autograph session for my boot sponsors – in Leeds, of all places! One of the organisers turned to me and said: 'Have you heard Cantona's just signed for your lot.'

I replied: 'Yeah, right – absolutely no chance!' I turned on the radio and there it was.

Total shock. Then there were all the media stories about his past and we were like: 'This bloke's a total nutter. What are we doing!'

Basile Boli
Friend and former French team-mate

The first time I went over to see Eric in Manchester after he'd signed, he was beaming.

'Come out with me now, you've got to see this,' he urged.

We walked in the city streets and people everywhere were coming up to him, with delight on their faces, simply wanting to see him amongst them in person.

Eric just grinned and turned to whisper to me: 'You see You see They love me here. They love me!'

Wembley winner: Cantona (right) poses with Mark Hughes (left) after United beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup final

Wembley winner: Cantona (right) poses with Mark Hughes (left) after United beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 1994 FA Cup final

Richard Shaw
Crystal Palace defender fouled by Cantona at Selhurst Park on January 25 1995. Cantona was sent off and, as he left the field, attacked Simmons with a kung-fu kick. He was subsequently banned by the FA for eight months.

WHAT BECAME OF THE THE MAN HE KUNG-FU KICKED
Agressive streak: Cantona lunged at a fan, receiving a lengthy ban from football

Matthew Simmons was just 20 when Cantona launched his infamous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park on January 25, 1995.

Aged 17, Simmons was convicted of attempted violent robbery after he attacked a petrol station attendant with a spanner.

After the Cantona incident he lost his job and lost contact with his family.

He was charged in May 2011 for attacking his son's football coach.

He currently works in the construction industry and occasionally watches football at Chelsea and Fulham.

The ball was going over the top, I chased it back and Eric sort of kicked out.

It was just one of those crazy moments. That's just Eric's way. He was getting frustrated and maybe at times the red mist came over him.

He was sent off but I didn't see his kung-fu kick. We looked back on the Betamax afterwards and thought: 'Wow'.

Everyone was just in shock at what happened. Eric probably thought: 'Hang about, this guy's coming down abusing me.

'What gives him the right to do that Maybe I'll do something about it.'

And he did. That's what makes these players so great. They've got this devilment inside them.

I played at Old Trafford after that and got booed. For something which wasn't really my fault, I get kicked and I get booed!

I expected it because Eric is a hero. It was amazing. It happened in 1995 and people still talk about it.

I'll probably still get the blame for it. I don't think it hindered Eric as he came back as good as ever.

I'd played against Eric before and I played against him afterwards.

He was a great player. He always had time on the pitch. I don't know how he did it.

He was so intelligent that he could drift into areas where the centre-half didn't want to go.

People talk about this man-in-the-hole now as if it's a new phenomenon. Eric was doing that 20 years ago.

Jamie Redknapp
Liverpool midfielder who gave away the penalty from which Cantona scored on his comeback game on October 1 1995.

I was penalised for pulling down Ryan Giggs but it was a dubious decision as I won the ball.

Eric had not done much against us before that but you knew he was going to score.

He then famously ran behind the goal and swung off the stanchion to celebrate.

Sky, as is often the way, got so lucky that they were broadcasting that game.

When Cantona walked out, it was like a gladiator entering an arena. There was always something special about him.

Having said that, we passed them off the park that day.

Manager's dream: Cantona had his best years under Ferguson

Manager's dream: Cantona had his best years under Ferguson

Roy Keane
Manchester United midfielder 1993-2005

I liked him immediately. He tended to do his own thing in training, something Alex Ferguson permitted.

He also had a temper that would flare up. He and Schmeichel often found themselves at odds. Fists were raised on one or two occasions.

But behind the enigma he was a great pro, serious and knowledgable.

The players loved him. I had never seen anybody finish like him and still haven't. He was different but bloody brilliant.

In private he was funny and loved a drink, champagne rather than lager. He was a good lad, one of the best.

No conceit, no bulls***. The eccentric loner was just the public mask. I remember when he was sent off in Istanbul.

A policeman was laying in to all of us. Eric got involved. In the dressing room he went crazy.

We all wanted to get out of there but Eric wanted to go back out and sort out the rogue cop with the truncheon.

Eric was a big strong lad and insisted he was gonna 'kill that f****r'.

The manager, Brian Kidd and a few players had to restrain him.

I played in the game at Crystal Palace. My immediate reaction was: So what Fair play to Eric. I may have done the same myself.

It was a nasty incident, out of order. But my heart went out to him.

All the lads felt the same. There was no way we were gonna turn our backs on him.

Heated rivalry: Cantona leaps over a Robbie Fowler tackle during a match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 1996

Heated rivalry: Cantona leaps over a Robbie Fowler tackle during a match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 1996

Gary Neville

Manchester defender 1992-2011

We were in the Bulls Head in Hale on a team day out. It was December 1996 and Eric had pulled up a seat next to me and Becks.

We were in awe of him. Over a beer Eric told us we were gonna be Kings of Europe.

It was a big claim but Becks and I left the pub feeling invigorated, and not just because of the beer.

For Eric there wouldn't be many chances left to dominate Europe as he had the Premier League.

The rest of us weren't to know it but Eric had staked everything on winning the Champions League.

We fell short that season [United lost in the semi-final to Dortmund] and, at the age of 30, he'd decided he'd given it his best shot. Time to quit.

A few days earlier I had seen him and he had just said: 'Have a good summer. See you later'.

The way he left was typical Eric.

Inspirational: Gary Neville says he was 'invigorated' when Cantona told him they would win the Champions League

Inspirational: Gary Neville says he was 'invigorated' when Cantona told him they would win the Champions League

Ryan Giggs
Manchester United forward 1990-present

Eric confirmed his retirement a week before his 31st birthday. Were we surprised

Life with Eric was one long surprise. You never knew what he would do next.

There were no farewells or anything like that. I didn't actually really believe he meant it until he failed to turn up the following season.

Legend: Cantona was joined by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left), Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Edwin van der Sar as Ferguson's statue was unveiled at Old Trafford

Legend: Cantona was joined by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left), Dwight Yorke, Andrew Cole, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Edwin van der Sar as Ferguson's statue was unveiled at Old Trafford

Graeme Souness backs Joe Jordan for Scotland

Souness backs Scotland legend Jordan to take over from sacked Levein

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UPDATED:

17:01 GMT, 12 November 2012

Graeme Souness has backed Joe Jordan to take over as the new Scotland manager.

The Scottish Football Association have begun the search for a new national team boss following the sacking of Craig Levein.

Souness was previously on a four-man shortlist for the position when Levein’s predecessor George Burley was appointed to the role but the former Rangers manager says he has no interest in the job this time around.

Backing: Joe Jordan (left) has been tipped to replace Craig Levein

Backing: Joe Jordan (left) has been tipped to replace Craig Levein

Speaking at a Hall of Fame event at Hampden, Souness made it clear who he believes is the outstanding candidate.Asked if he would be open to an approach from the SFA,

He said: 'I think your man is Joe Jordan. He would be my choice if I was making the decision.

Raring to go: Scotland train ahead of their friendly with Luxembourg

Raring to go: Scotland train ahead of their friendly with Luxembourg

Raring to go: Scotland train ahead of their friendly with Luxembourg

'He’s an obvious candidate. Everyone knows the passion that Joe showed when he was a player.

'He would be perfect. He fits the bill.

'He’s knowledgeable, he has worked at the highest level, played at the highest level and is extremely passionate. He’s your man.'

No thanks: Graeme Souness has ruled himself out of the running

No thanks: Graeme Souness has ruled himself out of the running

Gordon Strachan quickly emerged as the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Levein.

Souness added: 'He’s another real genuine candidate. In fact, him and Joe would be the outstanding candidates.'

Caretaker: Billy Stark (left) has stepped in after Levein was sacked

Caretaker: Billy Stark (left) has stepped in after Levein was sacked

Asked if he would be open to an approach from the SFA, Souness said: 'No, it’s not for me.'

Michael Owen"s Movember compared with best moustaches in sport

Hogan, Hughes, Souness… Owen! Stoke striker shows off spectacular Movember effort

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UPDATED:

19:46 GMT, 9 November 2012

Real men can grow a moustache. From Hulk Hogan to the suave and sophisticated Tom Selleck, a thick wedge of hair above a man's top lip is a sign of power, though probably not style.

And now 'Movember' gives the rest of us a chance to try it for one month only. If we look ridiculous, so what Charity is the winner.

So step forward Michael Owen, the Stoke City striker who's managed to become the envy of wispy facial-haired men everywhere with a spectacular ode to the probably never fashionable 'handlebar' moustache.

Handle it: Michael Owen showed off his brilliant Movember effort on Twitter

Handle it: Michael Owen showed off his brilliant Movember effort on Twitter

The Movember movement has really gained mo-mentum in recent years and a number of celebs have jumped on board. Even Theo Walcott's giving it a go this year.

Owen's fantashtic effort puts him among some illustrious sporting company, including cricketer Merv Hughes, Olympic legend Mark Spitz, and Liverpool great Graeme Souness.

So here, Sportsmail pays tribute to the 'real men' of the sporting world… and Joey Barton.

Known for it: Merv Hughes, the Australian cricketer was famous for his tash

Known for it: Merv Hughes, the Australian cricketer was famous for his tash

Trend setter: David Beckham

Trend setter: David Beckham

Making his Mark: Lawrenson

Making his Mark: Lawrenson

Legend: Hulk Hogan had one of the most famous moustaches in showbiz

Legend: Hulk Hogan had one of the most famous moustaches in showbiz

Model moustache: Graeme Souness followed the trend of the 80s with his

Model moustache: Graeme Souness followed the trend of the 80s with his

Iconic: Mark Spitz poses with the seven gold medals he won at Munich

Iconic: Mark Spitz poses with the seven gold medals he won at Munich

A Ok: Rollie Fingers gave his a continental twirl for added style

A Ok: Rollie Fingers gave his a continental twirl for added style

But not all who try can pull it off, can they Joey

Wispy: Joey Barton did his bit for the Movember charity last year

Wispy: Joey Barton did his bit for the Movember charity last year

Gordon Strachan wanted by Southampton

Southampton preparing to rival Scotland's bid to lure Strachan to Hampden Park

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UPDATED:

13:53 GMT, 9 November 2012

Scotland's hopes of landing Gordon Strachan as their new manager are under threat from gathering interest in the former Celtic boss by struggling Southampton.

The Saints are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with manager Nigel Adkins treading on very thin ice heading into Saturday's visit of Swansea to St Mary's.

Strachan, who managed the south coast club from 2001 to 2004, is being courted for a return to St Mary's by Saints chairman Nicola Cortese, according to The Sun.

In demand: Strachan is wanted by both Southampton and Scotland

In demand: Strachan is wanted by both Southampton and Scotland

Strachan would be a popular choice among Saints fans should Adkins depart as he led the club to the FA Cup final back in 2003.

The 55-year-old is the current favourite to replace Craig Levein as Scotland boss and his former captain and current Celtic boss Neil Lennon thinks he is the right man for the job.

He said: 'I think you need a manager and someone who will coach to the manager’s instructions.

'Someone the players will look up to.

'There are a lot of good candidates out there when you think of Walter Smith, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Joe Jordan.

Struggling: The Saints are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table

Struggling: The Saints are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table

'These guys all have fantastic pedigrees and there’s no reason why one of them couldn’t come in and resurrect them.

'I’m biased but I’d go for Gordon. I don’t know if he’d thank me for that. I don’t know what his thinking is and I know he’s enjoying his media work.

'But for me he’s an outstanding candidate for the job. I think you need a manager who will be strong with the players and get them onside.

'If you look at scandals and behaviour on and off the pitch – this has taken up more of the headlines than performances.

'The next manager has to be really, really disciplined, set down his rules and the players have to adhere to them.'

Jock Stein remembered by those who were at Ninian Park when Wales met Scotland

We still weren't sure what had happened. It fell silent as Fergie came in. He said 'Jock's dead'

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UPDATED:

19:42 GMT, 10 October 2012

Pressure cooker: Jock Stein (centre) and Alex Ferguson (right) on the bench in Cardiff

Pressure cooker: Jock Stein (centre) and Alex Ferguson (right) on the bench in Cardiff

The 39,500 who poured into Ninian Park were expecting a game of football they would never forget. As it turned out, September 10, 1985, would be remembered as one of the saddest days in Scotland’s football history.

Wales were playing Scotland for the right to face Australia in a World Cup qualifying play-off. Mike England’s Wales needed to win, a draw was enough for the visitors to Cardiff.

Mark Hughes’s early strike had looked to be enough for Wales until Davie Cooper’s 81st-minute penalty sparked a Scottish party. It didn’t last long as Scotland manager Jock Stein, a man who wrote his name into British football history when he led Celtic to European Cup glory in 1967, collapsed at the final whistle and died of a heart attack.

As the sides meet in a competitive fixture for the first time since that tragic night, the memories are still fresh for those who witnessed Stein’s death.

Kevin Ratcliffe
Wales captain

It had been a strange evening. Scotland keeper Jim Leighton lost his contact lenses and didn’t have a spare set, so Jock sent on Alan Rough in his place at half-time.

It wasn’t until about 30 minutes after the game that we realised something was seriously wrong with Jock. I had friends playing for Scotland: Graeme Sharp, Andy Gray, David Speedie, Graeme Souness and Davie Cooper.

Looking at the faces of those Scotland lads, it was almost as if they had lost a member of the family. They were silent. We kept ourselves to ourselves. What could we say A lot of the Scotland boys were visibly shaken by it all.

In shock: Scotland substitute and goalscorer Davie Cooper is comforted by Mo Johnston after receiving the news of Stein's death

In shock: Scotland substitute and goalscorer Davie Cooper is comforted by Mo Johnston after receiving the news of Stein's death

Graeme Sharp
Scotland striker

It is difficult to describe what Jock was to Scottish football. I will always be grateful to him. He gave me my first cap, an away trip in Iceland, and therein lies a tale that sums him up.

We met in a hotel for a meal ahead of the game. Andy Gray was the big star and he was asked by a waitress what he fancied to eat. ‘Prawn cocktail,’ came the reply. A voice boomed down the table: ‘Will you listen to him You wouldn’t have a clue where prawns come from, Gray. You’ll have soup like the rest of us.’ Andy had the soup.

That night in 1985, I knew from the moment our masseur Jimmy Steel came into the dressing room that Jock had gone. That pair went way back to their Celtic days. I saw Jimmy’s eyes brimful of tears and understood what had happened.

Jock was a big, powerful man. People said afterwards that he looked unwell. Perhaps. He was under enormous pressure to qualify, as we all were. The aftermath was eerie. I had planned an evening out with Andy (Gray) in Birmingham but we didn’t bother.

Far from celebrate the achievement, all we wanted to do was grieve. Scottish football had lost a great man in tragic circumstances. I’m not sure we’ll see his like again.

Mentor: Stein and Ferguson, pictured in Seville in 1985

Mentor: Stein and Ferguson, pictured in Seville in 1985

Alex McLeish
Scotland defender

We could see there had been an incident in the dug-out. We thought a fan had got in there and there was some bother.

Then we were told Jock had had a heart attack but we didn’t know for sure until Fergie came into the dressing room. It fell silent. He said: ‘Jock’s dead.’ There was silence. Normally after a result like that you would be full of the joys but if anything needed to be said, we spoke in whispers.

We flew to Glasgow and I hadn’t shed a tear. Then, on the drive back to Aberdeen, I pulled over into a lay-by and broke down.

Pain: Wales goalscorer Mark Hughes (left) tussles with Scotland's Richard Gough

Pain: Wales goalscorer Mark Hughes (left) tussles with Scotland's Richard Gough

Sir Alex Ferguson
Scotland assistant manager

When Davie’s penalty went in, Jock didn’t say a word. Shortly afterwards the big man rose to move towards Mike England. But as he did so, he stumbled. I grabbed for him as he started to fall. The medics came out of the tunnel. I held him until he was helped inside.

When I left to speak to the press I saw Graeme Souness and he was crying. ‘I think he’s gone,’ Graeme said. I couldn’t believe it.

When we filed on to the bus there were thousands standing outside and the quiet sadness of the atmosphere was unforgettable. The abiding memory is of a solemn silence. It was as if the king had died.

In football terms, the king had died.

Rangers in crisis: Charles Green preferred bidder

Rangers saga nears end with ex-Newcastle chairman Shepherd set for takeover

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UPDATED:

08:23 GMT, 13 May 2012

Former Sheffield United chief executive Charles Green looks set to be announced as preferred bidder by Rangers administrators.

Duff and Phelps have confirmed they view Green's bid as the highest of four potential offers.

And Rangers have called a press conference for 10am on Sunday when Green is expected to be confirmed. Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd is also reported to be involved.

About time: The Rangers administrators look set to name the preferred bidder

About time: The Rangers administrators look set to name the preferred bidder

Green told the Sunday Mail: 'The administrators are going to introduce me as the preferred bidder and we'll do a joint press conference when things will become clearer.'

The Blue Knights and Brian Kennedy claimed they were close to preferred bidder status on Thursday and Friday until an 11th-hour bid came in, but Green insists he has been working on the deal for a long time.

Kennedy valued his bid at potentially 11million but Duff and Phelps disagree and claim it is nearer 2million.

Joint administrator David Whitehouse told Sunday newspapers: 'I genuinely don't believe we're going to get there with the Blue Knights.

'We have three proposals, one is ready to go but is at a relatively low level, but it's still significantly higher than Brian Kennedy's bid.

Return: Freddy Shepherd is involved in taking over Rangers

Return: Freddy Shepherd is involved in taking over Rangers

'The secondary bid is not quite there yet but is with very high-profile people whose confidentiality we respect and there's the Charles Green bid.'

Rangers fans have given Green a cold initial reception after backing the Knights, who were set to bring former managers Graeme Souness and Walter Smith back to Ibrox on a part-time basis on a football board.

Green told the Sunday Mail: 'I understand the frustration of the fans. They are apprehensive about anybody taking charge of the club after what Craig Whyte did.

'I can assure you there is nothing sinister about my motives.

'For the last three months I have been working on a deal to save this great club. I have seen what has happened and it has been horrendous.'