Tom’s Weekly Ramble: A Flashback to the Return of the King

The return of the King will be remembered by Arsenal fans all over the world this week, but it still feels worthwhile to pay homage to arguably the greatest player to ever wear the famous red and white of Arsenal Football Club. Of course, I’m talking about Thierry Henry.

The Frenchman famously re-signed for the club in 2012 and the rest, as they say, is history. He was never going to come in and dislodge the irrepressible Robin van Persie, but it was still hoped that he could make a valuable contribution to the club he had grown to love. Boy, did he do just that!

There had been a sadness to the way that Henry left the club in 2007. His last game for the club was a Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven, which saw the Gunners eliminated from Europe’s premier competition and saw Henry finish nursing a groin injury. It was a sorry way to end what had been one of the greatest love stories in the history of English football.

But let’s set the tone. The date is 9th January 2012, and Arsenal are facing Leeds United in the FA Cup 3rd Round. The Emirates is packed to the rafters, largely because of the sheer presence of the great man. Supporters have dug out their old number 14 jerseys and are seemingly chanting his name every five minutes. The game is absolutely appalling, and then the moment everyone has been waiting for arrives.

Marouane Chamakh makes way and the Emirates begins to roar in a way that I have rarely witnessed in a football stadium. Thierry Henry, sporting an unrecognisable beard and an unfamiliar number 12 shirt, jogs onto the pitch and without touching a ball, has already created the most exciting moment of this cup tie.

Then the moment. The REAL moment. Alex Song plays a lovely ball that dissects the Leeds defence. Henry latches onto the ball and controls it deftly, before producing the most Theirry-esqe finish we could have hoped for. His celebration? Wild. He sprints half the pitch, embraces Arsene Wenger and pumps his chest, all the while screaming, “my club.”

Never in my life have I celebrated a goal against a Championship side as wildly as then. The romance of the FA Cup is preached virtually every season, but for any Arsenal fan, the famous old tournament has probably never produced a moment like this, nor will it ever again.

I remember walking out of the stadium and listening to the Leeds fans chanting “you’re so s**t that you need Henry!” I had two reservations about this chant. Firstly, they’d just conceded a goal to a 34 year old who had barely had a training session, so what on earth does that make them!? Secondly, I really don’t care what they chant as I’ve just witnessed one of those ‘I was there’ moments.

Of course, after this he also went onto score against Blackburn (although it was later taken away from him by the dubious goals committee – to this day I can’t get over what a waste of time this decision was) and a last minute winner away at Sunderland (another moment I could sit here for hours and describe).

I’ve enjoyed many highs and lows as an Arsenal fan, but coming from a generation of supporter where Thierry Henry dominated for many years, there are few that I have enjoyed more than this one. There are countless moments of brilliance throughout his two spells at the club that will have the hairs standing up on the necks of any real football fan, but for me, this one just about caps the lot.

It almost seems surplus to requirements to highlight the brilliance of him yet again, but for a man who has contributed so much to the history of Arsenal Football Club, it’s completely fair. The sheer fact that I have sat grinning to myself while writing this says it all. Thierry is our God; and regardless of what chapters are yet to be written in the history of our famous club, he will always remain that.

 

 

Gooner Ramble

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