The Comeback Kid

I must admit I was a little bit sceptical about Thierry Henry’s recent return to Arsenal. Undoubtedly, he was one of the finest players to ever wear an Arsenal shirt and is surely one of the greatest players to play in the Premiership. He set all kinds of scoring records during his time in North London and it’s hard to see any of these being broken before too long. As a Gooner, I was always a big fan of the Frenchman and not just for his goals. He created as many chances for his teammates and was always a joy to watch. In particular, I liked it when he would do the unexpected, such as the time he whispered to the referee if it was okay to take a quick free kick while the opposition was setting up its wall. The referee gave his permission and Henry gently placed the ball out of reach of the bemused keeper. As an Irishman, I was just as pissed off as my fellow countrymen when France’s top scorer hoodwinked the match officials by handling the ball twice before setting up William Gallas for the goal that put the French through at the expense of Ireland for a place at the 2010 World Cup. Eventually, I came to forgive this indiscretion, partly due to the entertainment provided by the French squad in South Africa and party due to the realisation that sports stars who play to the highest standard also raise their game when they’re bending the rules

I kept an eye on Henry while he was with Barcelona and occasionally saw flickers of the old magic but I felt that his best days had been in the red and white of Arsenal. His subsequent move to New York and the Red Bulls confirmed that for me and, to be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to his career in the States. All that changed a couple of days ago when he replaced the statuesque Marouane Chamakh for the last 22 minutes of Arsenal’s FA Cup third round tie against Leeds United. The game was still scoreless at that point and looked to be heading for a replay at Elland Road when Henry put a smile on the faces of thousands of Gooners and at least one Spurs fan just ten minutes after coming on. Like the Henry of old, he found himself in an onside position on the edge of the box as he received a perfectly weighted through ball from Alex Song. As he often did in the past, he dragged the ball into the penalty area and favoured accuracy over power as he curled the ball around the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net. You could see it meant a lot to him as he celebrated in style and it meant a lot to the Arsenal fans at the Emirates as well. He was still pumped up at the final whistle and quite emotional in the post-match interview. It was one of the best comebacks I’ve ever seen and it doesn’t matter if it’s the only goal he scores during his second stay at the club (though I’ve no doubt that he’ll have a hand in one or two more). What was more important was the joy and the passion and the enthusiasm that he showed and the continuing effect that he’s going to have on his teammates over the next six weeks or so. Here are a few songs about returning home, comebacks and statues

The Comeback – The Shout Out Louds

Home Again – Edwyn Collins

Statuesque – Sleeper

Home As a Romanticized Concept Where Everyone Loves You Always & Forever – Woodpigeon