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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What’s the most mind-boggling English habit you’ve encountered?
Rose Simons, via e-mail
Ketchup! Ketchup here, ketchup there, you put ketchup on everything! Don’t you want to taste the food? [Laughs]. I’ve got a friend here, and if you give him spaghetti 
bolognese he’ll put ketchup on it. Give him spaghetti, he’ll put ketchup on it. Any kind of food, and he’ll put ketchup on it. I say to him “If you like it so much, drink it! Put a straw in the bottle, go for it!”

The other thing is gravy – all over the food, all over the plate until you can see nothing but gravy. I have a laugh with the guys in the team. I say: “Do you know what you’re eating? Can you taste anything with all that ketchup or gravy everywhere?”

At Arsenal we have a masseur who is just extraordinary. He takes his plate, and 
fills it with a bit of everything. He puts everything on the same plate! He puts his starter on one side, then some mashed potato, some pasta, some rice. Then he slaps a bit of meat on top of it all and drowns it in sauce. I say to him “Put your starter on one plate and then get up and go and get another one for your main dish?” 
I mean, if it’s a pre-match meal, OK, you might take a bit of pasta and a bit of rice on the same plate. Or if it’s an English breakfast, then you have several things that go together. But when I see them with their plates with salads, pasta, meat, sauce all together, you just have to laugh.

Pires, Henry and Cole

Pires, Henry and Cole bid farewell to Highbury in 2006

What exactly were you talking about with Ashley Cole and Robert Pires on 
the last day at Highbury when you sat together in the centre circle when the stadium was almost completely empty?
Bradley Glen, Walthamstow
I remember saying to Robert that we had to savour those moments. It was the end of Highbury, a magical stadium. It’s in moments like that you see the difference with the youngsters – they’d all gone, 
running in different directions – but I didn’t want to quit Highbury, and that’s why 
I stayed there with Ashley and Robert.

When I arrived at Arsenal Christopher Wreh had the number 12, so I took a number that was free

Was Highbury quiet compared to other Premier League grounds? And were the players asked what they’d like for the new stadium?
Adam Ridley, Thorpe
There were perhaps stadiums which made more noise, but Highbury wasn’t only about that. It was the place as a whole... it’s 
difficult find the words for it. People liked to bring up the old Highbury-library thing but it will always hold special memories and a special place in my heart.

As for the new ground, we weren’t really consulted, but the only thing we were 
concerned about was could they possibly produce a pitch as wonderful as Highbury? The stadium is one thing, but if the pitch is not a great one then it’s no good. 
The great news is that the new pitch is extraordinary. It’s so important for us at Arsenal, because we play one-touch or 
two-touch football. Instead of taking three touches to control the ball, you can control it instantly. People sometimes don’t 
understand that, but the state of the pitch is crucial to the way we play. The new pitch is also wider, which will suit us.

Why do you wear No.14 for Arsenal and No.12 for France? Is it superstition or homage – and if so, to whom?
Gary Spencer, via e-mail
The 12 because Marco van Basten had the 12 at the 1988 European Championship, and the 14 because that’s what I was given! Simple as that – nothing special behind it. When I arrived here Christopher Wreh had the No.12, so I took a number that was free. He would have given it to me but I don’t like that sort of thing, taking 
a number off someone who’s already at the club. He was a friend of mine as well, but even if I hadn’t known him I wouldn’t have accepted it.

TH14 or TH12?

TH14 or TH12?

Do you like British comedy? Have you got into The Office? What about Only Fools and Horses?
Diane Pilkington, Bury
I have to say I have trouble with your humour. Sometimes my wife will laugh at something and I just don’t get it. What 
are you laughing at? I don’t understand 
the humour. But I laugh all the time at 
Little Britain. Matt Lucas is an Arsenal fan – but I’d laugh anyway! Only Fools and Horses – yeah, sometimes. But The Office is just 
impossible for me. Maybe you have to 
know what it’s like to work in an office to understand it, to get it.

Is it true that you once paid a man to hang a picture in your house? If so, could you not have done it yourself? It’s really very easy...
Matt Barnes, Tasmania
I’m not going to even answer that one. 
I don’t know where people get some of this stuff from!

You’ve never been known for diving and, indeed, attacked Barça’s players for doing so. Yet during the World Cup, Carles Puyol brushed your chest and you went down clutching your face. Did you make a conscious decision to go to ground, and do you regret it now?
Paul, Sydney
OK, this is a very simple one. Carles Puyol is a nice guy but there was foul after foul after foul, and the referee didn’t have the guts to do what needed doing. In the end I was actually being penalised because 
I wasn’t going down. It was the same in the Champions League final: he committed two really big fouls on me, but I didn’t go down and he didn’t get the card he deserved. After a while I turned to the referee and said, “OK, you can wave play on, but you have the power to come back to the foul once the ball is out of play”. He said, “Yes, but you didn’t go down”. What’s that got to do with it?

First half of our match at the World Cup, when the ball’s not even near us, Puyol comes across and elbows me. I look 
at the referee and he says, “You have the advantage, play on”. In the second half, same thing. He puts his hand in my face 
at one stage – nothing. I said, “Next time, I’ll fall”.

Carles Puyol Thierry Henry

Carles Puyol and Henry do battle in the 2006 Champions League Final

For the incident the question refers to, I’m running for a ball that [Mariano] Pernia should get easily because I’m a bit late on it. I see Puyol move across to block me and I try to run around him, but he takes that extra step to block me. Now I like basketball, where blocking has its place, but not in football. What with the Champions League final, that was the last block on me by Puyol and I went down. Maybe it’s not good, but after a while you realise you aren’t doing yourself any favours by staying on your feet. For me, it’s justified.