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Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
A French revolution
From William the Conqueror to the latest spat over English beef imports, relations historically between England and France have been tetchy to say the least.
But a decade after Eric Cantona first set foot on these shores the influence of French football on the English game has never been stronger and the regard of both Gallic managers and players has never been higher.
A new book, entitled "The French Revolution - 10 years of English Football after Cantona" by Alex Hayes, Daniel Ortelli and Xavier Rivoire - argues the French have radically reshaped the English game.
A quick glance at the top of the Premiership gives immediate credence to the authors' arguments.
As the league campaign resumes this Saturday, leaders Arsenal and second-placed Liverpool are six and four points clear of third-placed Middlesbrough.
Neither side has lost a game and in particular Arsenal, in the process of playing some breathtaking football, seem to set a new record each weekend.
Both clubs, of course, are managed by Frenchmen - Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier - who between them have won seven trophies in six years.
Both teams heave with players that have been developed by the French youth system or Le Championnat.
Again that is more true of Arsenal, where Frenchmen strengthen the team's spine from Pascal Cygan in defence, to Patrick Viera in midfield and Thierry Henry in attack.
The French playing influence is less prevalent at Liverpool, though it has been stronger this season, with both Djimi Traore and Bruno Cheyrou having established themselves in the first team.
Vladimir Smicer, John Arne Riise, and the Senegalese duo of Salif Diao and El Hadji Diouf have also all played in the French league.
Next season, Liverpool's French connection will increase with the arrival of two promising Le Havre youngsters - Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama-Pongolle.
Le Tallec has been dubbed the new Michel Platini.
But it all started with Cantona.
"Yes, after Cantona came over, the French players making their living in the Premiership started infuencing their team-mates," says Rivoire, who also writes for the French daily sports newspaper L'Equipe.
"More hours spent at the training ground, more focus during matches, more dedication off the pitch...This is exactly what David Beckham has said about Eric Cantona."
Rivoire adds the likes of Henry and Vieira have inspired a range of players, from Steven Gerrard to Alan Smith, both of whom are now full England internationals.
"French football, as a whole, has improved the English game - more passing and more thinking."
And while the players have acted as role models, Wenger and Houllier as well as Fulham's Jean Tigana have provided the strategic and tactical framework.
Those three are the products of the French "football management" school, with diet, exercise, practice and planning as key elements of the football curriculum.
All three have used the roots of English football - physical and mental commitment as well as sheer power - and mixed them with more sophisticated methods such as hiring chefs and psychologists.
A key member of Houllier's backroom staff is Jacques Crevoisier.
These French players and managers plying their trade in England are followed, respected, if not worshiped, in France.
Rivoire admits there is some resentment at the Federation Francaise de Football - "from some old boys," he says - of England's French enclave.
But most of the fans, and almost all of the plaudits, love them, from Jeremie Aliadiere to Sylvain Wiltord, from Fabien Barthez to Patrick Vieira.
"There is also a bit of resentment in French clubs that the best assets are 'stolen'," adds Rivoire of the furore that surrounded Arsenal's swoops for Nicolas Anelka and Aliadiere.
"But neither the Auxerre directors nor the Le Havre board (to name only two) will complain too much when Philippe Mexes or Pongolle and Le Tallec eventually move to England.
"Le Havre, who have signed a deal with Liverpool to exchange talents and assets, know fully well that French football has been recognized all over the world thanks to the Premiership."
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