It looks increasingly likely that former Arsenal, Barcelona and France forward Thierry Henry will be the next manager of Aston Villa. Yes, that’s Thierry Henry: World Cup winner, European Championship winner, Champions League winner, Premier League winner, Ballon d’Or runner-up, twice European Golden Boot. Manager of Aston Villa.
Everyone has to start somewhere, to be fair, and Villa offers the Frenchman an ideal chance to get his feet wet in the world of management without being overly worried about high-profile failure. The Birmingham side are a huge club in relative terms, but have been something of a basket case over the past few years. Henry has the opportunity to work at a club with big – and largely untapped – potential while being in a position to simply shrug his his shoulders in stereotypically Gallic fashion and say ‘ah well, it’s Villa’ if things don’t go well.
But while Villa has plenty to give to Thierry Henry, the reverse must also be true. Here’s what we think the ex-Sky pundit will bring to proceedings in the Second City.
An ability to empathise and sympathise with fellow players
Undoubtedly, some people in Ireland will consider Henry little more than a cheaty wee cheater who robbed the country of what would certainly have turned out to be a first World Cup title in 2010, but that is to completely ignore what was a glorious act of nobility on the part of France’s number 12.
For those of you who don’t recall, on a fateful night in the UEFA playoffs in November 2009, Henry controlled a ball beautifully on the edge of Ireland’s box before slipping in a cross for William Gallas to convert and thus end Ireland’s hopes of making it to South Africa. It was a wonderful piece of skill from the Frenchman, albeit carried out largely using the palm of his left hand.
What was remarkable, however, was not that he had the cheek to pull off this coup de main, but rather that once the final whistle blew, he totally redeemed himself by sitting forlornly on the Stade de France turf beside a devastated Richard Dunne, who would surely have loved nothing more than to sock Henry on the nose.
Quelle magnanimité. If Henry can bring this same sense of justice and sympathy to Villa Park, the players will immediately buy into what he has to say.
Experience working under an all-time managerial great
One of Henry’s greatest assets is the time he served under one of the best and most accomplished managers to have worked in the Premier League.
A man who revolutionised the league when he first arrived in the country from overseas. A man who was well known for his attractive attacking football. A man whose class, grace and humanity left a lasting impression even when he departed his Premier League job in search of pastures new after, admittedly, things went a little stale during his last few seasons in the English top tier.
Yes, Henry’s time as assistant manager of Belgium under ex-Wigan and Everton boss Roberto Martinez will stand him well in his own management career. After all, the dynamic duo led a team of underdog no-hopers including Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany to a World Cup semi-final. Henry will have learned a huge amount under Martinez, and should carry that knowledge with him at Villa.
Comfortable in front of the Sky Sports cameras
Thierry’s not afraid of the Sky Sports spotlight, which will be vital for coming to terms with the TV pressure-cooker that is Aston Villa.
Aside from Leeds United, no-one in the Championships draws as much attention from Rupert Murdoch’s boys. The Elland Road club were part of the featured live Championship match on Sky Sports nearly 20 times last year, with Villa close behind them.
You’d imagine that mini-league will be tipped in Villa’s favour this year, what with them potentially having a former Sky Sports presenter in the dugout. But that won’t bother Thierry – he’s well used to being front-and-centre in that regard.
Here’s hoping the world somehow throws up another opportunity for him to firmly grasp the leg of a disconcerted Jamie Carragher.
Previous experience performing in an environment relating to Aston Villa