Interviews

The big interview: Thierry Henry – "The Invincibles didn't think about going unbeaten until the third-last game"

Thierry Henry
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You went eight games without scoring 
at Arsenal and even hit the clock at the Clock End with one woeful shot. At that moment, did you fear that you weren’t going to make it?
Robbie Murray, via e-mail
That story of hitting the clock at the Clock End is my story, that’s what I always say to people. But no, I didn’t worry because it’s not in my temperament to think like that. I kept working, kept practising in front of goal and eventually it started to happen.

Seven years on, what are your most cherished memories of your time at Arsenal? Best goal? Best moment?
Steve Pears, North London
I think the best memory will always be going through the whole season unbeaten [in 2003/04], breaking the record and 
holding on to our invincibility. That’s a hell of an achievement in English football, what with all the tough games. And nobody will ever be able to take that away from us.

Talk us through the socks over the knees look. Why? Whose idea was it? And did you do it for a bet?
Mike Honeywell, via e-mail
Sonny Anderson is the answer.

Socks. Socks. Socks.

All Sonny Anderson's doing

Do you regret that incredible rant at Graham Poll at Highbury (vs Newcastle in 2001) when you had to be pulled away several times after the final whistle? 
It seemed a bit out of character...
Neil Kateley, Ealing
This is another one of those incidents that some people misinterpreted. Some of my team-mates came over to pull me away, yes, but only because they thought I was going to lose it. That wasn’t the case. They were trying to pull me away and I was telling them that I wasn’t going to touch him and that made it look nastier than it really was, which often happens in those sort of flashpoints. When I went over to Poll, there was no one around, so if I had wanted to touch him, I’d have touched him. I just wanted to talk to him face to face; eye to eye. I wanted an answer from him but he still hasn’t given me one. I told him that he had falsified the game, and he had. But he wasn’t man enough to admit it, and that was what made me angry.

I don’t know if you remember, but he sent off Craig Bellamy – I still don’t know what for – and sent off Ray Parlour for next to nothing. And then Sol Campbell pulls off an absolutely magnificent defensive move and he blows for a penalty! At the end of the game I simply asked why he had ruined the game – ruined it for Newcastle and ruined it for us. He wasn’t able to give me an answer. If you’re a man, you can reply. Everybody makes mistakes.

At what point during Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ season did the players really start to believe that you’d go the whole campaign unbeaten?
Sarah Campbell, Stevenage
We never thought about it. The only time we really said anything among ourselves was at Portsmouth, the third-last game of the season, when we went behind before drawing 1-1. I remember we said it would be silly to go and lose now with the end of season in sight. Maybe subconsciously we began to think about it in the last four or five games, but honestly, to think about it is the worst thing you can do. You start 
trying not to lose rather than playing your usual way. At Portsmouth we had a difficult first half: I remember Yakubu scored and had another chance clear through on [David] Seaman but he didn’t put it away.

You always seem to play well against Italian teams: why?
Gigi Mazzola, via e-mail
Funny that, isn’t it? Especially as I hear 
so often that it’s easier to play against English defences...

I once saw a young female Arsenal fan with ‘Thierry Henry’ tattooed across her stomach. How does that make you feel?
Mimi Taylor, via e-mail
After one game a fan asked me to sign my autograph on his arm. I said, “Give me 
a piece of paper or something, because it’ll wash out on your arm,” but he said, “No, I’m going to get it tattooed over your 
signature”. I find that hard to understand because after all I’m just a footballer, I don’t save people’s lives or anything. You have to be a fan to understand. I have to say when he came back and showed me I was agreeably surprised. But I’m sometimes 
a bit ill at ease with that sort of thing.

They say you can get lost in London, but can you really go out on Hampstead Heath or for a coffee and croissant on a Sunday morning without a fuss?
Paul Ganley, via e-mail
Not entirely, of course, but much more than in other countries. For example, I can go shopping in Selfridges, no problem. 
I couldn’t go to the Galeries Lafayettes [equivalent Parisian store] like that. Here people might recognise you, say “Hi” or give you a wave, but that’s all. They don’t try to touch, they don’t behave in, shall we say, a Latin way. An English person is more distant. He may adore you just as much but he keeps his distance, he doesn’t need to touch you, talk to you, tell you he’s a fan.

Ketchup! Ketchup here, ketchup there, you put ketchup on everything! Don’t you want to taste the food?

What exactly is va va voom?
Ted Robson, Yorkshire
If he wants to know the meaning of va va voom, he can look it up in the dictionary. It’s in the dictionary now!