Arsenal: Thierry's Goal Made Me Scream Louder Than I Had For Ages

To the countless magical flashes Thierry Henry has produced in an Arsenal shirt, add one more: his 79th minute winner in Arsenal’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Leeds.
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To the countless magical flashes Thierry Henry has produced in an Arsenal shirt, add one more: his 79th minute winner in Arsenal’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Leeds.

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To the countless magical flashes Thierry Henry has produced in an Arsenal shirt, add one more: his 79th minute winner in Arsenal’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Leeds.

For as long as the game stayed goalless, my nerves increased. When he comes on he’s actually going to be needed, he’s going to have to make an impact, to dig us out of a hole. We’re 0-0 against lower division opposition and we’ll be relying on him. Again. What if he’s no good?

What if he comes on and is clearly off the pace, or can’t control it, or misses an open goal? What if the ball bounces off his shins and straight to a Leeds player, and they go on to score the winner? How stupid will Arsene, the fans, and the man himself look? It could be the first step to a tainted legacy. These scenarios were all going through my head, for although I wanted him back, I desperately wanted him to be good.

It took one moment for all those worries to disappear. The King had returned, and he had remained royalty.

It was made for Thierry Henry. To the countless magical flashes he’s produced in an Arsenal shirt, add one more. In the 79th minute of Arsenal’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Leeds, he collected Alex Song’s through ball, took a touch, and produced a trademark finish to settle the game – his 227th goal for Arsenal, scored in his first appearance for the club in over five years.

I screamed like I hadn’t screamed at a goal in a very long time.

And so did Thierry. His celebration was part raw emotion, part disbelief. Eyes, mouth and arms wide-open, he exploded down the touchline in front of obeying hoards, pumping his chest and embracing Arsene Wenger, his friend and boss, in a moment no Gooner will ever forget. After the game he called it his first goal as a supporter. I think any true fan would have reacted in the same way.

It took one moment for all those worries to disappear. The King had returned, and he had remained royalty.

Looking back, it’s easy to say it was written in the stars, it was fate, it was meant to be. But football is rarely this kind. I remember Robbie Fowler, a legend of similar breed, making his comeback for Liverpool in 2006. He came off the bench at Anfield in similar circumstances, surrounded by banners welcoming the return of ‘God’, with Liverpool drawing 1-1 with Birmingham. He then had a stoppage time overhead kick disallowed for offside. An anti-climax - that’s how it normally pans out.

I was caught up in a squabble with a Liverpool fan after the game, who thundered against the goal for having to rely on a past legend to get us out of trouble. Firstly, and this is no slight to Liverpool but it did conveniently help my argument, they have a pretty strong recent history of doing that themselves, what with their own King Kenny coming back. Secondly, does it matter that it’s a past legend that’s won us the game? He’s part of our squad now, he’s legitimately our player again. Just because he’s our greatest goalscorer and part of the club’s best ever side, it doesn’t mean we should feel guilty, or worried, that we’re ‘relying’ on him, because he’s ours.

And hopefully ours he shall remain, because up until his moment it had been a stinker of a match – a sub-standard Arsenal performance against a Leeds side happy with a draw. These details though, will be forgotten; it was all about the goal, and the significance of the scorer. In the grand scheme, it will be remembered as Thierry’s night.

Hats off to the scriptwriters.

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