Arsenal’s favourite son Thierry Henry made his official debut as a Sky pundit last weekend and whilst his former team delivered an efficient performance on the pitch, just how did he fare off it? Here’s a brief review of Henry’s first day in the new job and the 5 reasons why he’s guaranteed to be the greatest pundit ever.
It was probably the most over-hyped debut of his distinguished career as Sky (after beating both BT and the BBC to his contract) decided to make a huge song and dance about his introduction. The teasing promotional foreplay went on for weeks and although it was Henry’s decision to enter punditry, he was already on a pedestal so high, it was almost surprising he didn’t start by juggling footballs and signing autographs.
After a paint-dryingly dull first half of West Ham vs. Burnley, Henry was put on the spot by presenter Ed Chamberlain who asked him if he believed Arsenal were a weaker team than they were at this stage last season, when they topped the table. In typical Henry fashion he didn’t shirk from the challenge and said the Gunners had “gone backwards”, “need to defend better” and were missing “a big piece” in their team. A refreshing change from the usual politically correct fence-sitting that’s become the norm.
Henry looked impeccably dapper; his £10,000 suit and crisp white shirt (complete with stylish tie and pocket hankie) were so classy it made Graeme Souness, all bristly and crinkled sat next to him, look like a badly polished caveman. In the same way he’s been doing on the pitch for years, he relaxed and let the ball do the work.
So his appearance was immaculate, but how did he sound? Despite his recent years in the MLS, thankfully Henry hasn’t developed a Yankee twang; his dulcet tones are as velvety as ever. He speaks leaned back in his seat with a flirtatiously cheeky half-grin which conjures up images not of a sports studio, but a romantic candlelit dinner date for two with footballs most eligible Bachelor.
During the World Cup coverage for the BBC Henry showed he has a natural ability to convey relevant knowledge and concise analysis. On Sunday he displayed glimpses of cynical realism and had the mettle to take on Souness on the issues of David Silva and Alex Song.
His Sky Sports bow is synonymous with his early career at Arsenal. He is a rough diamond with lots of obvious potential, but whilst he masked his inevitable happiness at the final whistle more effectively than the majority of others, he lacked the gritty acidity of Souness and the preciseness of a Gary Neville analysis. A very promising Second Coming (or is it now third?) for Henry back in The UK, the hype didn’t help anyone, and whilst he’s still finding his feet in the media game, we all know what can happen when he does get moving.
Henry will be joining the team of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, adding a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to the already successful double act, both of whom he used to regularly embarrass on the field. Whilst it was initially assumed that Carragher’s speech would be too incomprehensible for the non scouse viewer, and Neville would fail to be unbiased, both of these premature judgements have been proved false. We do know however, precisely what the uber cool Henry will deliver. He will undeniably become the finest pundit the world has ever seen. These are the 5 reasons why:
1. He’s box office. He has that star quality, the pizzazz that Neville and Carragher lack. He acts cool whether or not he means too.
2. Wealth of diverse experience. Henry has won every domestic UK trophy (as well as their equivalents in Spain) the Champions League, The European Championship, and The World Cup. Combine that with the titles in Italy, France, and The USA, as well as all his individual gongs and you have arguably the most decorated pundit on TV..
3. He’s a very likeable personality. The recent axing of Adrian Chiles and Andy Townsend from ITV is a good example. Henry has the exact level of subtle arrogance that presses you to take serious interest in his views, whilst his aura will have already had you inevitably listening in. Henry appeals. Chiles and Townsend do not.
4. At long last there is a permanent football personality who is actually funny on Sky. We no longer need to rely on chance interviews with Ian Holloway and Jimmy Bullard.