Nostalgic Thoughts on Henry’s Return

By on March 24, 2010

Please welcome aboard Arsenal Station’s newest guest contributor, Greg Schwartz. He is a fellow New York Gooner and Nevada Smith’s regular. Greg is currently studying Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. With Thierry’s impending return looming, Greg recalls some of his favorite memories of the club’s greatest ever goalscorer.

As I think about the impending return of Thierry Henry to the Arsenal faithful, one memory, more than anything else, stands out in my mind.  No, it’s not “that” goal against Manchester United, beating Barthez with a sublime half volley from the edge of the eighteen; nor is it “that” other goal against Manchester United heading in Eboue’s perfect cross on 94 minutes; nor is it the sublimely skillful run to put the Arsenal through at the Bernabeu.

In fact, it’s probably the only memory of mine that isn’t eternally enshrined on youtube.  Perhaps the most significant memory of Theirry Henry that is embedded in my mind isn’t a goal itself, but what he meant to our fans.

My little trip down memory lane takes me to the last North London derby at Highbury, where Wenger had decided to rest Theirry along with Cesc Fabregas, the other man making a return home this Champions League tie.  Arsenal were chasing Tottenham for the fourth and final Champions League spot and the outlook in that game was dismal.  Spurs bossed the first half, and early in the second, took the lead through Robbie Keane.  Then it happened.

Henry began jogging down the touchline, and even 3000 miles away, through my TV, I heard the roar.  The fans raised their voices singing his name; such was the confidence in the Frenchman.  I felt as if I could hear the ground shaking, even a continent away.  You knew every second that he would score.  And lo and behold, on 84 minutes, Adebayor burst brilliantly past Staltieri, and slotted in Thierry, who of course, could not miss.  That was Henry, for Arsenal: the passion, the skill, and the lift he brought to us fans.

It’s for that reason that I have mixed emotions about the return of Thierry.  On the one hand, I miss watching the silky skills and beautiful goals that I have tried to, and exclusively failed to, emulate during my less than illustrious AYSO career.  On the other hand, Thierry himself summed it up best calling it “weird” to step on the pitch wearing another shirt.  I expect the fans to respond the same way, as an almost bittersweet reunion.  I know I will be applauding, and I know the stands will be too.

Thierry’s Arsenal career was a blessing for both him and our fans.  As such, he will return to a hero’s welcome without a doubt.  The Nou Camp’s response to Cesc Fabregas however, remains to be seen.  Thierry’s Arsenal career and Cesc’s fledgling Barcelona experience have nearly no comparison.  After all, when Steve Sidwell, Matty Upson, and Seb Larsson (to name a few) return to Arsenal the response typically sums up indifference.

That said, Cesc Fabregas’s return to Barcelona presents an entirely different situation as he is the object of their constant affection.  I don’t believe he will return to raucous applause, nor do I believe the crowd will meet him with spite for spurning their advances.

I believe the response will be somewhere in between, a mix of praise, to entice, and wishful ambivalence.  I do expect that the Arsenal response to our captain will consist of an outpouring of praise; serving as a reminder that our crown jewel will never be theirs.

Coming home in sports is tricky, for the fans and for the players.  This tie in particular has so much history and so much passion that I don’t think one can truly quantify the feelings of any fan or player in this situation.  I’m curious as to the Arsenal response, as much as I anxiously await watching Cesc wear the yellow arm band out onto the Nou Camp pitch.

Whatever happens, even if Thierry’s last goal at an Arsenal ground does not come for us; I know I’ll be singing his name.  Finally, if I could be there, and not in the purgatory that is mid-western America, I would sing a chorus of “We’ve got the best player in the world” to commemorate both our time with Thierry, and our new gem Cesc.