Arsenal Anniversaries: Thierry Henry signs for Arsenal, 3 August 1999


Who invented away support?


By Tony Attwood

August 3 1999 – what a day.  Henry arrives (for the first time).

What on earth can we say about Thierry Henry that has not already been said?  Maybe the story that when he was 13 the scout of Monaco went to watch him play in a match.   He was so utterly brilliant (scoring six that day apparently) that they gave him a contract without even asking him to go for a trial.  Monaco’s manager was, of course, Mr Wenger.

Or that the director of Clairefontaine Academy – the elite French training school for footballers of the future didn’t want Henry there because his school record was too poor.

Or that when Mr Wenger got him into the team at Monaco it was he who put Thierry on the wing to beat the full backs and run rings round everyone else.

He was  French Young Footballer of the Year in 1996, and the following year the Wenger-Henry duopoly won the league.  By 1998 he had won the World Cup.

And then Juventus screwed it up.  They had Thierry Henry, one of the greatest players the world has seen, and they screwed it up.   (See also the Barcelona bit below – it begins to tell you something interesting – Arsenal got Henry right, Juve and Barca got it wrong – and yet we lose players to Juve and Barca – how odd is that?)

The story is however that while he was there he spoke on the phone regularly to Mr Wenger, and that contact paid off for on 3 August 1999 he came to Arsenal.  £11m he cost.

So let me do the personal bit.  I was there, in the north bank, watching.  1999.  New season.  Mr Wenger had bought a lot of players to the club and we were struggling to see which ones were supposed to be the highlights and which the makeweights.  Who was bought for now, who for the future?

Henry had a price tag, and Anelka had gone, so surely he was the main man.  But I sat there next to Roger during those early games when he (Henry, not my mate Roger) couldn’t even get the ball on target let along hit the net, complaining that this Henry fella was useless, spending his time out on the wing.  “Doesn’t he know where the bleedin’ goal is?” I believe is the phrase I used.  Roger shook his head in despair.

Thierry scored 26 that season.  By 2002 he had won us the Double.  In 2002/3 he scored 32 goals in all competitions.

You know all this stuff – it goes on and on.  In October 2005 he broken Wright’s goal record – I remember Ian Wright coming out and standing in the centre circle to embrace Henry, and then having to wait there for several minutes because Arsenal weren’t ready to come out.  I think Wright ended up doing a dance.

It all ended on 25 June 2007 when Thierry went to Barcelona for €24 million – but that was not the end of the story because this transfer became one of the celebrated examples of what we now call the Flamini Fallacy.  It is a process in which Arsenal sell top players to foreign teams for huge amounts of money, and the foreign team doesn’t get that much out of it while Arsenal re-invests the money in younger talent.  You’d think other teams would have learned by now, but apparently not.

Henry played 80 games in the two-team league that is Spanish football.   His salary was reported £4.6m per season.  He was there for 3 years and the total cost to Barca was £35.8m.  His goal account dropped to 0.43 per game from the 0.69 he had at Arsenal over a much higher number of games.  The cost to Barca was thus £447,000 per game, and considering that a number of these games were as sub, it doesn’t look like a great deal for them. Amazingly he was none the less their top scorer in one of those three seasons!

In July 2010, Thierry went to New York and on 6 January 2012 he signed for Arsenal to cover for forwards who were playing in Africa.  He came on against Leeds as a sub, and scored a typical perfect Henry goal.  Right in front of me.  I was close to tears – only the sheer excitement, the screaming, the jumping up and down, the everything, stopped me crying. It was one of those “I was there!” moments that stays forever.  And ever.

In his last game he came on and scored the winner against Sunderland on 17 Feb 2012.

Yup, Thierry Henry.

Quite a guy.

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19 Replies to “Arsenal Anniversaries: Thierry Henry signs for Arsenal, 3 August 1999”

  1. My God, Tony, you say his goal almost made you cry… iam crying as i read your post.

    Tony, i have this feeling … your writing skills are as good as Henry’s scoring skills.

    You are a blessing to us young gunners!

  2. Still get goosebumps thinking about THAT Leeds goal. I love everything about this man! Quite a guy, indeed

  3. Thanks much. U refresh our old cherish memory. We can never 4get ‘IGWE’ (THE KING OF PREMEIRSHIP). Yes, thats his title given to him by millions die hard Arsenal fans in Nigeria which even comprise many Governors/Mayors in our dear country. We would like to come back to Arsenal and he should please come to Nigeria one day. Long life THIENRY HENRY and more glorious year for Arsenal.

  4. Nigeria Arsenal fans call him IGWE” which means KING….we sing his praise even in language he never heard…. No one can take ur place in my heart….He was made for arsenal that was why it was different at juve and barca…. red and white blood runs through him…va va voom

  5. an irreplaceable hero the french is. difficult to find hare,long live you man “HENRY THIERRY”

  6. you completely make me re-read his history because have always admired the quality of this great player ever produced by Wenger.

  7. What if he come back the next winter as a player and end his career on arsenal shirt.

  8. You make me cry…Titi was the best…LEGEND. Long live the King…and long live AISA.

  9. As a New Jerseyan of modest means I never got to see some of the all-time greats of North American sport except on television. I never got into the venue to see Joe Montana throw a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice, or Michael Jordan dunk a basketball, or Wayne Gretzky bear down on Patrick Roy with the puck. But as a New York Red Bulls season ticket holder I have seen Thierry Henry score a goal 30 feet in front of me, and then do that casual walk away and shrug move — and also the kneeslide — from so many DVD highlights.

    I just wish Hans Backe had started him on Tuesday night, but didn’t even let him suit up. Didn’t want to risk him, even though he’d scored his first Red Bull goal in an exhibition against Tottenham two years earlier. It may have meant little more than a show to the locals, but as a Gooner and a Metro Boy, I say there is no such thing as a “friendly” where Tottenham is concerned!

  10. thank you in remind me of our legend in the history of arsenal football,thierry henry it his name.your dazzle with the goal scored will never be forget in our mind.please all gunnerz lovers should join me sing this song: igwe hehe! Igwe,igwe hehe! Igwe,i never see this kind of footballer.henry may you live long,when quitting in football please join arsenal you,love arsenal fc!

  11. Regarding Thierry’s game against Sunderland, it was a very important match for many reasons.

    First of all, it was the first in our four-victory-streak in which we made a come-back from being a goal or two down to win the game.

    Second of all, it was the first of three matches in aforementioned streak in which we scored a winning goal in the very last minute of the game.

    Thirdly, at that moment, Spuds were ahead of us and reminded us of the gap. Hadn’t Henry scored that goal, who knows what would have happened in North London Derby a week later.

    Fourthly, I’ve always believed that Henry’s cameo was the main reason our players had found strength to pip Spuds for Champions’ League place. He was the only Arsenal player to win the league with Arsenal, a living legend who had beaten all opponents in the league.

    Fifthly, it was the game in which we lost Per Mertesacker for the rest of the season. Sunderland actually used his injury to score the opener.

    Sixthly, the man who provided the assist for the final Henry’s goal was…Andrei Arshavin.

    Finally, it was only Henry’s last Premiership match for Arsenal. His last match for Arsenal was against Milan in Champions’ League four days later.

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