Football fans worldwide couldn’t deny they felt goosebumps when Henry scored the winner against Leeds United in the FA Cup – after all, you can’t help but applaud class.
There was a sense of inevitability when the ball hit the net for the 227th time. Thierry Henry, his return something of a certainty, had been almost bumbling his way into his second coming at Arsenal. Arguments about being a tad over-weight and more than half a yard slower than his pomp were scoffed at when he glided silently away from Zac Thompson, collected Alex Song’s pass and stroked his shot beyond Andy Lonergan and into the far corner. A hero had returned home but, in witnessing the delirious chest-thumping celebrations that followed, it felt as if the Frenchman had never been away.
As eye-catching returns go, this took the breath away. As player and manager later acknowledged, it was simply the stuff of dreams. Wenger might have been muttering “Who on earth writes your scripts?” into his compatriot’s ear once he had extricated himself from the bear hug on the touchline. Yes, he’s not the same player that could tear apart a side from the halfway line, but my God, Henry still has the timing of a genius.
After the game, Henry claimed the sponsors’ man of the match for just a 21-minute cameo (he had actually topped that poll, voted for by television viewers, while still prowling the touchline as an unused substitute.) “I think it is a joke,” he said with a sigh and a doubting shake of the head, almost embarrassed, but at the same time in sheer disbelief – there is no way he could never have envisaged an occasion such as this when he returned from a holiday in Mexico a fortnight ago. He stood arms aloft at the final whistle staring to the heavens as if wondering whether any of this was actually real. Thankfully for Arsenal fans everywhere, it was.
By Ross Fisher