King Eric, pirates and penalties

The Cantona interview was confirmed yesterday, so IâÂÂm to see him in Marseille âÂÂbetween 1400 Monday and 1400 Tuesday.âÂÂ

IâÂÂm working out how to get to FranceâÂÂs second biggest city. The only direct flight between Barcelona (where Eric lived for three years after leaving Man United) and Marseille (where he lives most of the time now), the MediterraneanâÂÂs two biggest ports, costs ã904 return. Ridiculous.

The train takes eight hours, a boat even longer, but Ian Hawkey, the Sunday Times European Football correspondent who lives in Barcelona, reckons I can drive it in five. The Beach Soccer World Cup starts in Marseille next week and Eric is apparently integral to the French setup, though not as a player.

Cantona: Integral to French beach soccer, not as a player...

IâÂÂll be in France twice next week, as my flight to South Africa for Man UnitedâÂÂs pre-season tour and the Orlando Pirates vs Kaiser Chiefs game is via Paris⦠it feels like the season has started again.

For my brother Joz, who plays semi-professionally, pre-season training has started at a new club, Trafford, who had 51 players at their first session. There are countless footballers who make the football equivalent of a New YearâÂÂs resolution to get themselves in shape and join a team each summer.

Joz is 31 and a diet of cigarettes and alcohol mean heâÂÂs unlikely to play as long as Lord Edward of Sheringham.

HeâÂÂs returning to Trafford, who are based in Urmston, West Manchester, where we grew up. ItâÂÂs the club where he started out before a rise that led him to scoring in the penalty shootout for Altrincham at Nuneaton Borough in the 2005 Conference North play-offs.

I was the giddy older brother who followed his progress closely, who got into arguments with a freak wearing a puffa jacket who slated him at Stalybridge - top scorer Joz had failed to find the net in each of the first three minutes - who jumped up and down on a bus in Latvia after receiving a text to say heâÂÂd scored the winner away for minnows Ashton at promotion favourites Southport.

I was the one who stood alone away at Barrow on a Tuesday night after turning down a job to cover Barcelona at Celtic Park. Barca were brilliant. Barrow were not. Their 20 strong hooligan firm sized me up, but ignored me when Joz scored the equaliser in a heavy downpour and I ran down the terraces to celebrate with him.

I was in Spain for the Nuneaton game in 2005. Altrincham were not expected to reach the play-offs and I had a date. It didnâÂÂt go well after I peeled myself away from a meal to listen to BBC Radio Warwickshire on the internet, where I heard the words.

âÂÂThe sub is Mitten. He looks a handful.â The concerned co-commenter agreed. My pride surged and I shouted: âÂÂThatâÂÂs my brother.â At a computer screen. Never did see the girl again, but 20 minutes later, I heard: âÂÂAnd Mitten steps up to take the penalty. 2,500 Nuneaton fans hold their breath. Hits it hard and low. Disaster for Borough. ItâÂÂs in!âÂÂ

Penalty hero: Joz Mitten 

Joz had no excuse for missing penalties. Our great Uncle Charlie held the record for the most consecutive penalties scored at Manchester United until Eric Cantona came on the scene. He once scored three at Aston Villa away in 1950, and told the goalkeeper where he was going to place each one.

Charlie always said that you should never miss from 12 yards. IâÂÂll ask Eric for his thoughts âÂÂbetween 1400 Monday and 1400 TuesdayâÂÂ. And if youâÂÂve got a question for Cantona, please leave your questions in the FourFourTwo forums.

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