`TWAS THE day soccer came backs down to earth. The English FA Cup Final - live on BBC 1 and Network 2 last Saturday - is one of the most hyped occasions in any given year and rightly so, given its traditional place yes, even before the advent of sponsors, in that country's sporting heritage.

Still, wasn't it strange to see a Gaul and a Gael steal the thunder on English soccer's big day? Eric Cantona, or "Mon Dieu - 7 " as the replica Manchester United jerseys (red versions) proclaim, and Roy Keane demonstrated, yet again, that they would be lost across the water without the influx of foreign invaders.

The trend of course was set early in the day on BBC 1 with Cantona's much-heralded but, in truth, disappointing interview with Des Lynam. Our Des wasn't in the mood to pose too many hard questions to our Eric and the nice pal routine, one presumes, was the only reason the interview was given in the first place.

Eric is the sort of guy who does his talking on the football pitch, and no better stage than Wembley. In what had been a poor final - despite George Hamilton's half-time assertion on Network 2 that it was "dramatic" and "enthralling" - the man's sheer genius rescued the entire occasion.

On a day when even TV pundits looked as if they were watching different games - examples: John Giles (rightly) on Ryan Giggs, "I can't for the life of me understand why he is wandering all over the place," and Gary Lineker (wrongly, during the half-time analysis) on Giggs, "very impressive working around the pitch" all were agreed on Keane's immense contribution.

As Hamilton observed at one juncture when Keane, again, stepped in to rob Steve McManaman, "Roy Keane seems to have a sixth sense." And Giles concurred: "That is when he is at his best, tackling back like that."

Over on the Beeb, Messrs Brooking and Davies were also handing out plaudits to Mr Keane of Mayfield. "Roy seemed to be at odds with the world early on, but he has had a really good second half," said Davies. While Brooking, on occasions, could utter no more than "look at Keane." Sometimes, simple words and the evidence of our own eyes are enough!

However, goalscorers are the guys who grab the headlines and, while Giles described Cantona's goal as "technically brilliant," Hamilton asked: "Is there another player on the pitch who could have managed it? You have got to

But it was the BBC's Davies who wondered: "How can he be left off the French squad for the European Championships?"

Confident Eric however, was in no doubt that it would be to Manchester United's advantage if he was ignored for England `96. Just a couple of hours earlier in the "interview" with friendly Des, he had said he could then go on a family holiday, so that he would be fresh for Manchester United's own European challenge next season. And, one suspects, that is the Euro challenge everyone but ABU supporters would prefer he met.