BY law, I have to comment on Thierry Henry, the new public enemy number one, the new Jan Moir, the new Maradona. After all, I’ve been banging on about what a saintly man, what a role model he has been in his career in a football column for five years. I love the guy.
Now though, because of a split second decision, I’m supposed to forget every backheel, every 25 yard shot, every mazy dribble, every impossible volley. Forget every visit he made to the sick kids at the Whittington at Christmas. Without his i-pod earphones in. Write off too all his charity work for Unicef and kids with cystic fibrosis. We must, the sweeping world of spin insists, all be accessories in a manufactured fall from grace.
Of course the goal that everyone is agitated about shouldn’t have stood and Ireland deserved to be beaten by a legitimate goal – if they were to be beaten at all. It would be the most magnificent thing in the world if France now agreed to a rematch by themselves, without any words even coming from Fifa.
But Thierry himself hasn’t done anything criminal, he hasn’t fed ketamine to puppies or written a homophobic column in the Daily Mail. The judgemental rush to make him a pariah for being caught with his dabs on the ball is just a product of the fact is that most people don’t support Arsenal. All the people who support teams left dazed by Henry’s mesmerising ability – say Tottenham, for instance – are trying to get their own back by characterising him as the worst villain since the guy who cut off Brad Pitt’s wife’s head in Seven.
It’s manipulation justified on the grounds that we’re all sticking up for the Irish..
Say what you want. Thierry will always be a role model, regardless of what a few weeks of tabloid rage says. Since leaving Arsenal, he has continued to be what is often grandly called an ambassador for football and I cheered when Barcelona won the European Cup last year and he finally got that competition’s winning medal.
Besides, compare the path he has taken since leaving the Gunners to the only man who has got even close to scoring the same number of goals for the club: Ian Wright.
Oh, Wrighty. What’s happened? My hero when I was in my teens, he was the only player who ever seemed to score before Arsene Wenger arrived. Cooler than Shearer, more explosive than Andy Cole, Wright seemed to be the best of everything. But since leaving the Gunners, oh dear, he has done much worse things than a quick handball. As if some adviser has told him that people like loud and shouty television presenters who don’t bother finishing their sentences, Wright has stormed through a number of utterly useless television programmes which have ultimately undermine his reputation as the second highest goalscorer Arsenal ever had.
I mean, can you imagine Thierry hosting What Kids Really Think or ditching his high-paying Pepsi contract to advertise Chicken Tonight. Like Wrighty did.
Forever wandering in search of TV format that fits, Wright has babbled and shouted, like a modern day Kris Akabusi, through other gash over the years like Friends Like These, Friday Night’s All Wright and They Think It’s All Over, as well as yelping though adverts for Ladbrokes and The Sun. And now it’s the garish shock of Live From Studio Five, a nightly sack of television discharge disguised as a chat show. There he sits in between Kate Walsh and Melinda Messenger grinning and saying ‘nah, man’ a lot and pretending he doesn’t understand normal things so that we all cheer oh-Ian-you-are-ke-razy.
Thierry may be feeling sorry for himself this morning, but he count his stars he isn’t presenting Live From Studio Five.