Belfast Telegraph

It's a big hand for Thierry Henry and his star turn on Sky

By Billy Weir

You can't help but wonder that in the week of hype that was to lead to Thierry Henry's much-publicised debut as a Sky Sports analyst that the same channel was broadcasting the World Handball Championships.

So with two fingers up to all Republic of Ireland fans, the formidable Frenchman or galling Gaul, depending on your viewpoint, took his bow alongside Graeme Souness for Arsenal's visit to Manchester City.

Presenter Ed Chamberlin set things up by pointing out that City's new signing, Wilfried Bony, was at the Africa Cup of Nations but, "there is one debut today" and "joining us is a Premier League great."

Souness was about to point out he didn't play in the Premier League but we were off for a montage of Henry's all-golden moments, no handballs though, before Chamberlin asked him if he was ready to go.

"I'm ready, I'm ready, I'd like to be on the field but it was time to quit," he said, but let's face it he could probably still walk into most teams. I mean look at Hull, Henry's Cat could get a game for them, although the owner would probably insist on calling it Henry's Tiger.

It was a gentle start, Henry was asked how close Arsenal were to getting to the top and his conclusion was that, "they are missing a big pi**." Now, there's no need for that, not on your first day.

"They miss a Patrick Vieira or a Gilberto Silva," he added, and it dawned on me he meant 'piece' but it got a little lost in translation.

But Souness wasn't going to let Henry have things all his own way.

"There's another thing that I'd like to say about Arsenal, that you can't say, I don't think, yet," he said as we all nervously moved to the edge of the sofa.

"Would you be disappointed with any of those players coming home with your daughter? They're a team of son-in-laws," asked Souness, who has been married 124 times. I made that last bit up.

"Is that your way of saying they're too nice?" enquired Chamberlin.

"There's no rascals out there, they're all nice guys," he replied before Henry joined in, or maybe he didn't.

"I have to agree with you, I can't say that," he added, while Souness concluded that, "my daughter might not be too happy" or indeed the current Mrs Souness.

Onto the game and nice guys do win as the good Gunners triumphed 2-0 and Henry was asked what he thought of it.

"Amazing," came the response, before Souness hijacked the conversation and added that Henry had "brought the best out of them."

"For me it was always about desire," added Henry as the call went out to lock up your daughters from this rascal, before another one arrived in the shape of Gary Neville, released from the commentary box.

Having spent years chasing Henry it must have been nice for him to see his face, and he wasn't about to lose his spot as Sky's cheeky chappy.

"If you'd offered me in the last four or five years in the afterlife to come back as an Arsenal defender, I'd have said no, I'll stick with this one, because it wouldn't have been much fun," he said as Henry's eyes sparkled at the renewing of hostilities.

All three now got in on the act and it was great stuff, brought to a shuddering halt by a declaration from Chamberlin, not of peace, or a piece thankfully, but the end of the war of words as a break was needed.

But all in all a good first day at the office, a big hand for Henry... or maybe not.

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