In Premier League history, Eric Cantona stands tall as a legend and a maverick. His name goes hand in hand with the footballing glory of Manchester United in the 90s. Among his goals and infamous kung-fu kick, one story endures. That alleged affair between Cantona and Leslie Ash, the star of the cult TV series “Men Behaving Badly.”
Cantona’s 1992 move from Leeds to Manchester United remains a pivotal moment in Premier League history. Howard Wilkinson’s decision to part ways with the French maestro for a mere £1.2 million left Leeds fans in disbelief. Little did they know that this would be the catalyst for Manchester United’s two-decade-long dominance of the Premier League.
Rumours Began About Cantona’s Flings
Rumours surrounding Cantona’s transfer began to circulate almost immediately. Still reeling from the shock of losing their talisman, many Leeds fans speculated wildly. Top among these theories was the allegation that Cantona had been involved in an illicit affair with Leslie Ash. The Men Behaving Badly star happened to be Lee Chapman’s partner at the time. The rumours suggested that this secret liaison had caused such unrest within the team that Wilkinson had no option but to let Cantona go.
However intriguing as this narrative may seem, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction. Lee Chapman, the man at the centre of the storm, debunked these rumours. In his own words, Chapman stated, “There were rumours about several players’ wives, but all of them were absolute rubbish. People needed a reason as to why Eric didn’t fit into the team, but the simple reason was that he was selfish” . Chapman emphasized: “that the style of play at Leeds didn’t suit Cantona’s strengths, and the decision to sell him was purely tactical.”
Leslie Ash, the woman allegedly at the heart of this scandal, also shared her side of the story. In a column in The Guardian, she wrote: “In Footballers’ Wives everyone appears to be having an illicit affair with everyone else, nipping off for a few hours of passion with the new Italian signing. In my day, a few – one or two – of the wives might have had affairs, but mostly they were totally devoted to their husbands.
Leslie Ash Speaks Out
When Lee was at Leeds a horrible rumour came out that I was having an affair with Eric Cantona after he left. They put it about that I was the reason Cantona left Leeds. Of course I didn’t have an affair with him. The same thing happened to two other players’ wives, but because I was on TV it stuck with me.”
Pranksters made up this rumour to try and explain the Cantona transfer. Nevertheless, mud sticks and Manchester United fans still sing a song about the alleged affair.