Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Thierry Henry – Legend screening

Thierry Henry – Legend screening

Arsenal Media have recently been releasing documentaries on some of our legendary players from the last twenty years or so through iTunes. Nigel Winterburn and Dennis Bergkamp have already been afforded the celluloid treatment. With Thierry Henry back on his seemingly annual winter hibernation in North London, something a little more glamorous was planned to launch the Thierry Henry legend documentary.

A small gathering of journalists and some familiar faces from Arsenal’s past, such as Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, David Seaman and Ian Wright were also on hand for this premiere of sorts. Fortunately, Arseblog News also managed to jimmy their way over the wall, into the opulent surrounds of the Diamond Club and snuck their way into the back row with an obscenely large diet coke and a packet of Haribo to give you the lowdown.

The screening was preceded by a short drinks reception and the Arseblog News mole stayed delightfully nonchalant as a tall, handsome Frenchman chanced upon him, hand outstretched, announcing “Hello, I’m Thierry.”

“Bugger off mate; can’t you see I’m getting stuck into the canapés here?”

With that unpleasantness out of the way, we were invited to take our seats in the auditorium. The director explained a little about the thinking behind the documentary series, which had been conceptualised as early as 2010. If you’re making a documentary series about modern Arsenal Legends, I suppose there’s a half decent chance you might like a chat with Thierry Henry sooner or later. The film had actually finished shooting in late 2011, before the unveiling of the Henry statue at the Emirates persuaded the production team to document this chapter of the legend. Then of course, Henry rejoined for an emotional second spell at the club, which also required chronicling.

We were told by the director that the approach to this series was to be minimal. There was to be no editorial, there are no voiceovers or narration (save for football commentary on some of the clips) and there were no set questions. This was simply to be the player telling the story in his own words. One of the most striking aspects of Henry’s football career was his appreciation of theatre. He was almost the Vaudevillian footballer. His haughty dismissal of Graham Poll’s fussy refereeing immediately after curling in a free kick against Wigan, the irate chest thump and hilarious nutmeg whilst staring the whites of Danny Mills’ eyes against Middlesbrough in 2004. Henry was always a scene stealer.

There’s a delightful section in the documentary when Henry explains his celebration at the final whistle when the Gunners confirmed their title win at White Hart Lane in 2004. Security had explained to the players prior to the game that they ought not to celebrate should the inevitable happen and Arsenal seal the league title. Henry explains that it was an agreement he and his teammates were perfectly willing to adhere to until Spurs’ injury time equaliser when he saw “Taricco jumping up and down so much he got cramp.”

Henry perfectly judged the theatre of the moment. “If you’re going to celebrate a draw in front of me, in one minute I’m going to celebrate winning the title with my fans and you’re going to see how much it hurts.” Given Henry’s emotional compass, he’s an intriguing subject for this sort of approach. One senses he doesn’t need a cue or a leading question to illustrate the poetry of a moment.

Thierry is one of the more media savvy footballers of modern times, but what comes through nicely with this approach is his sensitivity. He reveals some of his more moody goal celebrations had their roots in his desire to impress his father. Henry senior, Thierry explains, was a hugely supportive presence but he was a patriarch that pushed him hard and challenged him to improve. If Henry looked moody when he scored, it was apparently because he saw it as a kind of equalising of an earlier mistake or miss.

It is tempting to look back on the team that Henry played in with rose tints. Understandably, we remember the trophies and associate those times as unilaterally glorious. But in this retrospective, you remember that the teams Henry played in had their fair share of trying moments. Bolton in 2003. Galatasaray in 2000. Liverpool in 2001 (“we should have won 11-0” a still animated Henry asserts). He talks a lot of the character that permeated the club he joined and how that elixir of Arsenal brand determination infused him.

“I came here as a World Champion, but I was nobody and rightly so. I hadn’t done anything at Arsenal.” Referring to the likes of Dixon, Keown, Seaman, Winterburn and Parlour, he adds, “You don’t just arrive with your name and impress those guys.” Henry wasn’t just popular with Arsenal fans because he was a good footballer and scored lots of goals. He has an emotional intelligence which allowed him to relate to Arsenal fans. At the risk of attempting pop psychology, Henry was and is a character that needs to feel nurtured and loved, but when he does, he gives it back tenfold.

I admit that I always wondered if he was a little too cute with the heartstrings at time during his Arsenal career. But when you watch him talk about the last ever North London derby at Highbury and how the prospect of a Spurs victory made him “want to vomit”, even a lamentable cynic like myself sees that the intensity is real. It’s ridiculous to think our world has transformed so much since even the late 90s, but they were less homogenous times culturally. Henry had a perfect mixture of the spirit passed to him by Arsenal’s established English pros and a Gallic flair for poetry. Even his gestures were almost cartoonishly French.

When recounting his incredible solo goal versus Liverpool in 2004, Henry describes the feeling sensually. “I felt Highbury breathing again.” He’s very candid too. He honestly recounts his substitute appearance for Barcelona against Arsenal in 2010, admitting that he didn’t know how to play, how to react or even whether he wanted to play. “Usually I wanted to kill the opponents. I still wanted to win, but I didn’t want to kill them this time.”

Tellingly, he still refers to Arsene Wenger as “ze boss” throughout the documentary. Sitting a few rows behind him, it was difficult not to split my attention and try to gauge his reactions at certain moments. Such as the miss in Paris in 2006. Or the touching moment when, upon seeing himself celebrate a goal by making a “T” with his fingers, he leans over to his daughter Tea and explains that she was the muse.

I’m not much of a crier, but it’s difficult not to get choked up at certain points as an Arsenal fan. When he explains his departure in 2007 it still feels raw, era defining even. Even if, in your writer’s opinion, it was the right time for him to go. His fairytale comeback is also recounted with an emotion that still flickers. “They say love is blind and I had nothing to gain by coming back” he admits. He recalls how he sat in the dressing room in his full kit and boots for two hours after that Leeds match, which he describes as the greatest night of his career.

Henry is the perfect subject for this sort of documentary treatment; he is the quintessential movie star footballer in a sense. I don’t mean in terms of the vapid, vulgar glitz that is sometimes attached to the phrase ‘movie star.’ Henry is de Niro, Pacino and Clint Eastwood and he recognises Arsenal and Highbury especially as his stage. He has a measure of humility and self recognition, describing himself as “difficult” but with an appreciation of his own craft. When recapping his goal against Madrid, he describes its difficulty with relish and pride. This is more than just a nostalgic collection of clips from the glory days; it’s a revealing insight into the man. But then, everything Henry did always was. LD.

Arsenal Legends: Thierry Henry is now available exclusively on iTunes (UK only).

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51 comments

  1. A beautifully written article for one of the most beautiful of all footballers.

    I’ve a feeling I’ll be watching this film over and over.

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    • thatleftfootedprince

      Beautifully written indeed,Great artice Tim!
      Q-Who is a considered a legend?
      Arsenal fan – A legend is a player who…………ummmmmmm”Thiery Henry”Yeah thats it. :)

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      • I could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure it’s on Youtube and has been for a while. It’s fecking awesome.

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        • No, that one is different. I’ve seen that one already, but it doesn’t have the same clips or narration as described here.

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    • I couldn’t agree mlore about the write up – TS is always worth a read but I still rate this bit, written by Blogs himself some years ago, as my favarite excerpt:

      As footballing weeks go, this one has been a bit like finding out John Terry is your biological father and that your conception was captured on Ashley Cole’s camera phone and the footage sold to the News of the World. In fact, the last two months has been like some kind of maudlin Clockwork Orange style scenario where we’ve all been strapped to our chairs, our eyelids held open by rusty hooks as we’re played repetitive footage of Rory Delap’s long throws, Harry Redknapp’s twitching nutsack of a face and Phil Brown singing Perry Como covers to your Nan. All this whilst getting a lap dance from Sam Allardyce. Last week I wrote about the seemingly attractive figure of hope having sashayed into view on the dance floor. Turns out it was Richard Keys in drag. The hands should have been a dead giveaway. The simian twat. Coutesy of today’s Arseblog – blogging genius!

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  2. Wonderful stuff. Great bit of writing.

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  3. I really wish it were available outside the UK :(

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  4. Finsbury Park Gooner

    Fantastic piece. Making me emotional on my bus to work goddamit. Can’t wait to watch this doc..

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  5. I’m definitely not one to advocate piracy but as an Arsenal fan in the USA it might be the only option until I’m allowex to buy it in the US.

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  6. Le Jaded Handbreak

    How would I view this if I don’t live in the UK?

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  7. Excellent piece. Thank you, you brought a little magic to my morning..

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  8. Tim Stillman at his best. Excellent article and can’t wait to watch the documentary.

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  9. Oh how I’d love to see TH in this current squad – one can dream

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  10. King Henry the great!….God, how I miss him!

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  11. There’ll never be another like him, what a legend

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  12. Excellent film and excellent write up.

    One of my favourite parts was when he was recalling his loan spell. “They say love is blind and I had nothing to gain from it. But all I knew was the Boss asked for my help and so I came”.

    I feel he has fallen in love with the club over these past few years more than he ever has.

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  13. How can any gooner not get a lump in their throat remembering that goal, and now to imagine how: “He recalls how he sat in the dressing room in his full kit and boots for two hours after that Leeds match, which he describes as the greatest night of his career”
    Thierry Henry… The King.

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  14. Probably one of the best written pieces on THE greatest striker that ever blessed an Arsenal-shirt. Great hommage. Just pure feelings that have been put into words. Thanks.

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  15. Legend is an understatement.

    Very good article, Tim.

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  16. Hey,
    I live in India. Anyone have any clue on how I could get hold of this gem over the internet. Please I am a die hard Gooner and would love to watch this if possible

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  17. This article is just but a subtle reminder why i have been reading this blog daily from africa in years. I have gotten so used to the excellent pieces that I forget the level of quality this blog has.

    Still. Stillman’s the man!

    Great artcile.

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  18. A true gentleman who epitomises the word “LEGEND”!

    Great piece of writing!

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  19. Tim, I just wanted to say that you truly are one of If not the best pure writer about Arsenal around. You blend the cerebral with the guttural and the spiritual of football. the mind, the heart, the soul. Thank you

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  20. Fantastic article Tim. The loyalty and love Henry has for Arsenal knows no bounds. It is a true testament that although I’m neither from the UK nor based there, I trully love Arsenal.

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  21. How can I watch this on Android??

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  22. UK only makes me a sad panda. Not usually one for piracy but I’m not being given a choice on this one

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  23. Excellent Article Tim.

    Henry is pure class and even though I have not seen the documentary, I already have goose bumps running..

    Viva Henry, Viva the ARSENAL

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  24. VictoriaConcordiaCrescit

    If people want more Thierry, Phillippe Auclair’s biography of him, ‘Lonely at the Top’ is truely excellent

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  25. I live in the USA and really want to see this!

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  26. I cried like a little girl when he scored against Leeds. And again just now.

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  27. hey, im also not in the UK.

    i’ve done a good search, anyone found a torrent/direct download?

    cheers!

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  28. I haven’t confirmed or checked this but perhaps you could make a “UK” iTunes account and use the UK iTunes store. I know living in Australia at the time Mortal Kombat was illegal I did the same same thing with the play station store.

    Thumb down if it doesn’t work like I said haven’t tested.

    Fantastic article btw Tim

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  29. Just echoing all the complimentary remarks. This is top-drawer writing, worthy of it subject. Well done.

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  30. Thank you Tim for this great piece. As a Nigerian, i watched the Leeds game at a bar with a female friend who has never watched Henry in an arsenal shirt before. Immediately after TH12 scored, i bursted to tears. That night she saw a side of me she had never thought existed before and she fell completely in love with me from that moment saying to me; shower me with 10% of the love you have for Henry is all i’ll ever ask of you. Reading this bring tears to my eyes again but i’m consoled by the priceless memories the ‘KING’ had given me. I’ll tell my grand-children about you Thiery, i’ll tell them how i hated nature for making you grow old and i’ll tell them how nobody in history hates 5pud2 more than you do. It’s the biggest honour of my life to have witnessed TH14 and TH12 put on that pretigeous red shirt in an amazing stadium and put smile on our faces. Thank you Thiery ‘True Arsenal Legend’ Daniel ‘Titi’ Henry!

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  31. Randy Pan the Arsenal Fan

    For you overseas peeps I recommend a subscription to SwitchVPN.

    You can use it to mask your IP address and trick the internet into thinking you’re connecting from anywhere in the world. Heh, stooopid internets…

    I use it to get the Radio 5live commentary on games and watch tv on BBC iPlayer.

    Another product that does the same thing is called Expat Shield. Not tried this as it doesn’t work on my o/s but I hear good things.

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  32. What a shame that you see it only if you are in U.K

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  33. Hand ball, u fuck

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  34. Angolan Girl who Loves The Gunners!

    Love King Henry, he’s the reason i’m an arsenal supporter since 2006.

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  35. When are we getting the “King Kanu: Legend Documentary”?

    “KAN-U BELIEVE IT!!!!!”

    p.s Obviously I am Nigerian.

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  36. Thanks Tim.
    Great write up for an Arsenal great.

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  37. I’ve watched that goal vs Leeds like 4 times today. ..tears in eyes every time

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  38. Just watched it. Not ashamed to say I had thierrs in my eyes all the way through. Without doubt in my mind the greatest Arsenal player ever. Peter Hill looking at him while he is crying on the statue unveiling is also a terrific moment.

    God bless you, Mr Arsenal.

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  39. Rogman, How did you find it outside the UK? I’ve been searching with no luck. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

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