LEGENDS IN THE DUG-OUT: HENRY AND TERRY

Sounds like a new soccer documentary series, doesn’t it? Someone reading this might take it up as a project. Got a nice ring to it too. But that’s not what this article is about. It’s just about two of my favourite footballers (Henry and Terry) who decided to swap the playing field for the dug-out. For one of them, this has been coming. For the other, it was probably not going to happen this quickly. But in a time where Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are working as managers, almost immediately after playing, I’m no longer surprised.

Recently, John Terry announced his retirement from professional soccer after a long and successful career that ended with a promotion near-miss at Aston Villa. He’ll always be remembered for his time at Chelsea, winning multiple titles and standing out as one of the greatest defenders of his generation. I loved watching him. He could tackle any player; no matter how skillful the player was. Great in the air, maybe not that great with his feet (the missed penalty in Moscow comes to mind) but it is little wonder how he made FIFA’s Team of the Year 5 times in a row. No one can think about Chelsea without mentioning him. The team basically collapsed after he left them…and that was just last year.

Many epistles have been written about Thierry Henry so I don’t need to get into what made him a great player. From my view, he was everything you wanted from a striker…and more. Speed, intelligence and a deadly finishing ability. Few strikers possess that nowadays so you can understand why he will always be a reference for the modern-day striker. There are too many moments in his career that stand out for me. If I were to pick one, I would say the goal against Real Madrid away in the UEFA Champions’ League 2005/2006 season. That goal was all him. I remember few people giving Arsenal a chance against Real Madrid, let alone thinking that the team could go and win at the Santiago Bernabeu. But that’s what Henry did for Arsenal, and he will always be in my heart (and many others) just for that. After making stops at Barcelona (where he won a ton of trophies) and New York Red Bulls (where he added a few more), he announced his retirement before signing on to be a pundit with Sky Sports. Seems like a natural way to start your coaching career, if you ask Gary Neville.

John Terry was always suggested as a future manager. His ability to inspire a group of men, from diverse backgrounds, in the same direction was evident in his time at Chelsea. Taking the step down to Aston Villa allowed him to earn his coaching badges while learning from Steve Bruce (another legendary defender). After seemingly heading to Russia for one last paycheck, he realized how bad that decision was and chose to announce his retirement instead (he should have done that in January anyway…why wait? He was already finished). Shortly after that, he was announced as the new assistant manager at Aston Villa.

Henry’s route to the dug-out is more progressive. After retirement, he took up the job of working with the Arsenal youth teams before leaving to focus on his job at Sky Sports. After a while, he left Sky to work as the assistant manager of the Belgian National team. Much has been said about how the forward players (Lukaku especially) have improved since he came on the coaching staff. Lukaku had a fine World Cup 2018, finishing with 5 goals. Just last weekend, Thierry Henry was announced as the new manager of AS Monaco, the club where he started his playing career. It’s a lovely homecoming story.

I’m not sure what effect John Terry will have on the Aston Villa squad. For a team that was so close to promotion not long ago, they’ve gone about their business really badly this season. Nevertheless, it’s still a good group of players in there and Terry’s first job will be to motivate them to pick up some self-belief. It’s kind of what Roy Keane does as assistant manager at the Republic of Ireland national team. Win or lose, those guys play with a lot of heart…and I know that it’s his input. He could also be the defensive version of Mikel Arteta…well…I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to find out.

More importantly though, I can’t wait to see how Henry gets on at Monaco. “He’s back home” they say. Feels like when Zidane took over at Real Madrid, a club after his own heart. Much can be gauged about Henry’s philosophy when you hear him speak about the game. We know he’s attack-minded and he values creativity matched with control, concentration, and composure. This simply means that the team must express itself but never forget that they must win the ball and be alert defensively. AS Monaco has experienced a major overhaul due to many key players leaving for huge fees. Perhaps those departures have not been properly replaced and now they are struggling as a result. Henry’s appointment offers a fresh start for the players. Regardless of how bad they’ve been this season, it’s still a good group of players. Henry has to get them playing and believing in themselves. If he can sort that mental hurdle out, I don’t have any doubt that he will be just fine.

Later.

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