London

Crystal Palace fan kicked by Cantona denies assault

Eric Cantona walks off the pitch before confrontation with Matthew Simmons in 1995
Image caption Matthew Simmons was kicked by Eric Cantona in 1995 after taunting the French striker

The Crystal Palace fan who was kicked by Eric Cantona in 1995 launched an unprovoked attack on the manager of a boys' football team, a court has heard.

Matthew Simmons denies attacking Stuart Cooper during a boys' game last August.

Kingston Crown Court heard Mr Simmons, 36, bore a grudge against Mr Cooper over the alleged exclusion of the defendant's son from his football team.

Mr Simmons' son, now 13, was allegedly left out after Mr Cooper learned of his father's role in the Cantona incident.

'Flurry of punches'

Prosecutor Michael Logsdon said this exclusion, just before the 10th anniversary of the infamous incident at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park, caused "bad blood" between the pair which, several years later, culminated in an attack at a football ground in south-east London in August 2010.

Mr Simmons threw a "flurry of punches", hitting Mr Cooper in the face, arm and chest, leaving him with a bloody nose, bruises and a black eye, the court heard.

About 30 boys, who were playing in the park, were witness to the "unprovoked" attack, jurors were told.

Giving evidence, Mr Cooper said: "I felt somebody spit at me, and call me 'scum'.

"The next thing I knew was just punches flying at me from everywhere, from the side and from behind."

'Pre-emptive strike'

He told the court a newspaper article mentioning the Cantona incident was brought to his attention in 2004, and said parents of some children had expressed "some concern" about Mr Simmons.

However he did not refer to Mr Simmons' son being excluded from the under-8s team he was involved with at the time.

Addressing the role Simmons' notoriety may have had to play in the incident, Mr Logsdon said: "Whatever may have happened to Mr Simmons in 1995 at Selhurst Park football ground, the after-effects of that, and the resentment he felt towards Mr Cooper, he was unable to control."

Mr Simmons, of Kynaston Avenue, Thornton Heath, south-west London, argues that he acted in self-defence and the confrontation with Mr Cooper was a "pre-emptive strike".

Cantona kicked Mr Simmons after being sent off in a Premiership game between Crystal Palace and Manchester United.

Following the incident the French footballer was banned for nine months and Mr Simmons' season ticket was confiscated and he was banned from the ground.

The trial has been adjourned until Thursday.

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