Henry - It was the most difficult decision of my life
Arsenal Football Club today gave Thierry Henry the opportunity to speak to Arsenal supporters about his departure from the Club. What follows is the unedited transcript of the interview. The views expressed by Thierry Henry are not necessarily representative of Arsenal Football Club or its employees.
Thierry you have left Arsenal, can you tell the supporters your reasons for going?
“I have said it so many times. Before Mr Dein left, for whatever reason, I went to the boss and said I don’t want to leave. There had been a lot of speculation about me and I assured him that I did not want to leave. But after Mr Dein left that unsettled the team and the boss. Especially as at the moment he has not committed himself to the club. He said he will see out his contract but you cannot be sure if he is going to go or stay [at the end of next season]. Hopefully he is going to stay but I need to be certain and reassured of that. Everybody knows I am 30. The boss being unsettled, Mr Dein going, it did unsettle me a bit. After that I had thoughts of leaving the club.
“It is a difficult day for me to come here at Emirates Stadium and talk about this. But I want to come here explain why to the fans. I want to be certain of where the club was going and reassured in a way. I wasn’t and I have chosen to go."
How long did the decision take and how agonising was it?
“It was a long one but nobody knew what was happening to be honest. We were hearing some stuff in the press about what happened and what did not happen so you have to make your own mind up. It was the most difficult decision of my life.
“Beating the record of Wrighty, putting it at 226, playing for Arsenal, loving the club. It was and will remain the most difficult decision of my life. I will always love the club.”
Arsène Wenger has always said ‘Arsenal will be club of my life’ because he has spent the prime of his career here. Is that true for you too?
"I don’t know if I will play eight years more or where the future is so yes. I had a special relationship with the fans with the boss, Mr Dein and everybody who was attached to Arsenal. Arsenal will always be in my heart, my blood, my head. Everybody will. The press office, the chef, the girls at the training ground, the guys who made the pitch perfect at the training ground and at Emirates, the guys at stadium who help us perform at our best. I will miss everybody. The Arsenal fans who told me to step up my game or to carry on. It will be huge miss for me. I will take everybody in my head and my heart. Everybody who I trained with a worked with. Especially the boss and Mr Dein and the Arsenal fans who have been more than tremendous to me. It was unreal at times.
“I looked the schedule and already know when we, I mean you, are playing against Tottenham. I did it as a reflex. When fixtures came out I looked for Tottenham and I know it is pretty early on. When they play I will be watching and trying to be the first to know the result even though I know the fans will beat me. It is really special coming here [to Emirates Stadium] to talk about it. I will always have Arsenal in my blood I know some people will never accept the decision I just want to say to the fans that I always gave 100 per cent. Even the last year when I was injured I tried to perform. It was not the 30 goals you were used to but it was 17 games in the League and scored 10 so that was not a bad ratio. It was all about the heart and the commitment to win for Arsenal. I always, always, always, always gave 100 per cent.”
Let’s look back, what was your best goal?
“They were all amazing for me. I think I scored some good goals at Highbury and away but the one that stands out was my second against Liverpool when we went unbeaten in the League. I never heard Highbury going crazy like that. I thought the place was going to collapse and you could tell by my celebration that it was the right time and place to score that goal. I went a bit mental. The place was just too loud. Scoring goals for Arsenal gave me goosebumps but that was a stand-out goal and kept us in the title race. We stayed there until the end.”
Your best moment?
“I would say winning the League unbeaten but one that would top that is my last goal at Highbury when I kissed the ground. It was a special moment for me. But as well this particular day is one of the saddest of my career, leaving Highbury. I can’t say it was the best moment but it was a particular moment. I am still shaking talking about it now.”
The best Arsenal side you have played in?
“Difficult to say, some people came here and did not win anything but that does not mean they were not great players. If I go with the team that stayed unbeaten then that means I have to leave out David Seaman and a load of other players. But in terms of the results then staying unbeaten is something rather amazing. But then with the guys before, we had won the Double. Every time I wore an Arsenal shirt it was just amazing. When I stepped on that pitch even where I was not performing well whoever was playing with me at the time was the right guy for me."
As for the fans was there any moment that sums them up?
“I would say when we lost the Champions League Final against Barcelona in Paris. They all stayed afterwards and clapped us. That was a very special moment for the team. It is easy to stay there and cheer when you win but it is hard to clap your guys when you have just lost one of the titles you were waiting for.
“But as well I would say the first time I arrived here and people were giving me stick. The fans were always behind me and cool with me. I could go through whole eight years, it was crazy. I have had a really special relationship with them.”
How has Thierry Henry and Arsenal changed in the last eight years?
“I would like to think that when people talk about Arsenal they see the Boss has brought the ‘Arsenal touch’ and the ‘Arsenal way’, and I’m truly proud of being one of those guys to have helped play the way we have been. And I am sure it will carry on, because Arsenal was playing like that before me and they will be playing like that after me.
“Arsenal is a club that is now well known throughout Europe and that’s all down to the Boss. Also, the fans, they are never in trouble with fighting or disrespectful to other fans. The Arsenal fans have always made us proud.
“From a personal point of view, at Arsenal I have really become a man. This is thanks to the Boss, thanks to all the players, thanks to all the facilities at the Club and as I said before, thanks to all the people who made my life easier here, they have made me a man.”
Turning to the future of the Club, if you read the media at the moment it’s 'crisis at Arsenal' and 'the walls of Emirates Stadium are coming down'. Surely that’s not true, the players and the set-up are far too good?
“The set-up and the facilities are far too good and we still have a lot of the main people who are staying. As I have said so many times, the team here is growing and there is some amazing talent here and I do think this is the right time for Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner who is coming back from Birmingham, to shine. Hopefully they will do it. As soon as you know they can do it, they will forget about me, that’s the way it is.
“When Patrick left everyone was devastated, including me and then after that a little guy came around called Cesc Fabregas and, although I didn’t agree with it, everyone started saying ‘who needs Patrick Vieira?’ For me the guys we have here are amazing, but you always need Patrick Vieira.
“I don’t believe what everybody is saying about the Club collapsing, having a lack of players and everyone leaving. I think it is untrue. Cesc Fabregas is a world class player, Robin van Persie is a world class player, hopefully Adebayor will become a world class player, Tomas Rosicky is a world class player, Jens Lehmann is a world class player, Toure and Gallas are world class players. You can go through the whole squad like that.
“As I said to you, I will now become now an Arsenal fan and will be looking at every result and I’m sure the team will be successful.”
How did you tell the Boss you wanted to go?
“To be honest, I have a great relationship with the Boss. I’ve told you the reasons why I wanted to go and I told him exactly the same reasons. That’s how it is, I talked to the Boss about private stuff and non-private stuff. A bit of everything.
“But as I said to you, today is a very sad day for me. Whatever people are going to talk or read or see into it, it is a very sad for me.
“One thing that I forgot to say earlier was about the pride to play for the shirt and the team. In France we don’t have that. When I was young I used to support Bordeaux, but when they lost I went to support Marseille. But here you really learn the importance and the value of the shirt and the club. Arsenal is like that, an English family.
“Although I have had disagreements with the press over here, they have been tremendous to me, keeping me on my toes. But everyone has been great, the fans, playing away, getting booed, getting cheered, getting standing ovations. I will always, always remember that. And Arsenal gave me that, the way we were playing, getting standing ovations from away fans was just out of this world. It’s hard to understand because in France they are just not like that. If you play well at home [in France] you get a standing ovation, if you play well away from home, well, you play well away from home, that’s it.
“Getting a standing ovation away from home with Arsenal is something I will never forget, because you know a lot of people are really appreciating what you are doing as a team and it’s outstanding.
“As I have said before, I just want to thank everyone at the Club, the girls who work at the training ground, the girls who wash the kits, the masseurs, the staff at the Club, the staff at the stadium, the staff who work on the pitch at the stadium, the staff who work on the pitches at the training ground, the press office, the coach driver, everybody. Everybody here, I would just like to thank everybody here.
“Also to all the teams I have played against here, all the battles I have had against the players here, some of the fans away, the press and the refs, it’s been a great time. Everyone has just made it special and I would just like to thank everybody, but especially to all the people involved at Arsenal.
“It’s important to me to come to the Club today and say something properly because the fans have given me so much and I hope I gave a lot back to them. I want to keep my box here and I want to come back and watch some games, if they let me in! But it’s been a very weird day.”
Arsène Wenger has said he will stay on at least until his contract finishes next summer. We hope he stays on. If he does would you regret your decision?
“I don’t regret what I do. Playing for Arsenal was an honour for me. And I will say that until the day I die. When Patrick Vieira left the team had to move on and we came close to winning the Champions League. But this type of guy we were already missing.
“Not having Arsène around anymore — and everybody at the Club — will be ‘missing’ for me. It is a fact but it won’t be a regret. When Patrick left, I was devastated I missed the guy and I still miss the guy even though I see him with the national team. But I was devastated because he was a good guy to be around on the pitch or off the pitch. It goes beyond sport. That is why I won’t go with the regret word but more ‘missing’.
If you left Arsenal was it always going to be Barcelona. Is there some thing special about them?
“There is something special here at Arsenal too. I left Arsenal to go to Barcelona because, no disrespect to any other team, but there are only two teams in the world who play football the way I like it. That is the way the people here like it — the Arsenal way. That is how we play football here and ‘we’ play football there. If I can say that is one of the is the main reasons for Barcelona. The football they play is attractive to watch.”
Finally, your last Arsenal.com question as a Arsenal player, do you have a message for the fans?
“Arsenal will be in my blood aswell as my heart. I will always, always, always remember you guys. I said I was going to be a Gunner for life and I did not lie because when you are a Gunner you will always be a Gunner. The Club is in my heart and will remain in my heart forever.