Thierry rekindles love affair with magic blast from past
WITH a familiar stroke of the right boot guiding the ball into the net, a celebratory hug with Arsene Wenger and pandemonium amongst ecstatic Arsenal fans, it was as if record goalscorer Thierry Henry had never left North London last night.
Substituted into the third round FA Cup match against Leeds United on 68 minutes with the score at 0-0, the on-loan striker took just 10 minutes to break the deadlock with the winning goal for his beloved Arsenal.
"I'm not coming back here to be a hero or prove anything, I'm coming here to help," Henry said in the match programme. He did.
Hero status Henry does not need, he already has that in spades, as the cheer that greeted his name before kick-off and when he entered the pitch confirmed.
Even when he was on the bench, Arsenal fans were voting for Henry as man-of-the-match and, rather sheepishly, the 34-year-old accepted the award.
"I think it's a joke," he said, looking bemused as he clutched the bottle of champagne.
In trademark style, the French striker calmly slotted the ball into the net from 10 yards out after being found in space on the left side of the penalty area by Alex Song.
Henry, who plays for Major League Soccer club New York Red Bulls, made 370 appearances for Arsenal from 1999 to 2007 and scored 226 goals.
The Red Bulls agreed to loan him to Arsenal until the end of February before the new MLS season starts in March, with Henry saying Wenger had asked him to help out during the absence of Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh at the African Nations Cup.
The move had its critics but Henry has already silenced them, not only with his goal but also with his clear passion for the London club.
"When I left the club I cried," Henry said in the programme. I haven't cried a lot in my career, but when I do it seems that something is happening with Arsenal. I love the club. They say love is blind right? It's difficult for me to say no to Arsenal."
On this form, with Arsenal struggling for goals and over-reliant on red-hot captain Robin van Persie, he will be a big help.
Arsenal dominated the early stages against their Championship opponents with Welsh youngster Aaron Ramsey the beating heartbeat of the side.
But it was not long after Andrei Arshavin had blasted a good chance over the bar after five minutes that the "Thierry Henry!" chants began.
After the restart, the Frenchman immediately emerged from the bench to warm up, again winning rapturous applause.
The last time Henry played against Leeds he scored four goals in a Premier League encounter in 2004 but this time around it was just the one strike.
Moments later and the match was over.
Henry stood near the penalty area gazing up into the night sky as the Arsenal fans went crazy around him.
No one knew quite what to say, and judging by Henry's post-match interview, neither did he.