The 4th statue I want to discuss is that of our French goalscoring machine Thierry Henry.
When I witnessed Ian Wright break The Arsenal goalscoring record that had stood for fifty years, with Cliff Bastin being the proud owner of that title before him, it never occurred to me that it would last for only eight years, having scored 185 goals in 288 appearances for our club.
Thierry signed for The Arsenal, in a deal worth £11,000,000 in 1999 from Juventus. He had struggled in Italy, playing as a winger, before being transformed into the most lethal striker the premier league had ever witnessed.
He played eight seasons for us and said that he only left The Arsenal because he thought Arsene Wenger was leaving, transferring to Barcelona saying “I’d never considered leaving Arsenal. But I was 29 years old and in top form and I did not know if Arsene would be staying”.
In actual fact, the transfer was called off fifteen times by Henry, as he struggled with the decision to leave the club he had grown to love – this was confirmed by the Barcelona vice president at that time Ferran Soriano, who also said that it was the hardest transfer to conclude because of this uncertainty by the player.
When he left, the club received around £16,000,000 – so, we made money on a player who smashed Wright’s goal scoring record with 228 goals in 369 appearances and eight years later – such was his status in the world of football!!!
He returned on loan for two months in 2012 scored again of course and retired in 2014.
His international career saw him play for France 123 times, scoring 53 goals and beating yet another all-time goal scoring record, when he passed Platini’s record in 2007.
He was The Arsenal Player of the Year in 2002/2003 and 2003/04 – he won Footballer of the Year eight times – he was top scorer in the premier league four times – World cup winner in 1998 – European champion winner in 2000 – twice winner of the premier league in 2002 and 2004 – three times FA cup winner in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
But that is only part of the story regarding this icon, who became famous the world over.
Watching Thierry on the field, was to see a well-oiled machine, who was also a team player through and through, as his 20 assists in the 2002/03 season, plus his overall 74 assists confirm.
He popped up everywhere it seemed, and his grace and speed would see him cut through Premier league defences like a hot knife through butter – just watch his goals against Liverpool (4-2) and the one against spuds, where he left half their team chasing shadows!!!
He was absolutely electric, even from a standing start, and he scored goals from every possible position on the pitch and by any means possible. Remember that outrageous back heel goal against Watford, or that wonderful curving shot against Man United?
He was idolised by us Gooners and feared by every other club and its supporters the world over.
Yet he remained humble, appreciative of the fans and our club throughout his eight years of incredible football, with his absolute delight when scoring against our noisy neighbours endearing him to us even more – his reaction when it came through that West Ham had beaten them to ensure yet another CL spot was pure delight!! The grin on his face sealed it all for me – he was a Gooner through and through!!!
I really doubt that there will ever be another player with the goalscoring and technical ability of Thierry Henry, a player who became a legend and a Gooner to boot.
Thank you Thierry for eight years of being the complete goalscorer and team player, you made me hoarse with singing out your name and a top dog supporter, while having such a player at our club The Arsenal – You are my fellow Gooner!!