Let’s be clear: Thierry Henry did not warrant the build-up. Elvis Presley’s comeback from his day job in the Farnborough branch of Asda to grace the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury wouldn’t have warranted the build-up.
But this is Sky Sports, so the two months of Henry’s bald bonce plastered over half-page adverts in newspapers, billboards in built-up areas and in every second ad-break from Sky Sports One to Darts is par for the course for the channel which likes to SHOUT about sport.
Heck, it is barely halfway through January and they are already trumpeting their transfer-deadline day coverage. Which, let’s remind ourselves, is large expanses of time-filling occasionally punctuated by a footballer changing employers.
But back to Henry – whose first assignment as a pundit was to pontificate on West Ham v Hull. Hardly the most glamorous of debuts, but that was clearly the amuse bouche to the main course of the day, Manchester City v Arsenal.
He is being paid a reported £4m a year to talk about blokes in shorts which, if nothing else, is a huge amount of pressure to say something decent, in order for Sky Sports to justify the outlay. At this juncture it must be pointed out that we are aware that by writing about Henry’s debut, we are doing exactly what Sky Sports wants – that is, to get their channels into the public eye.
But is anyone really going to think in three weeks’ time, “I wasn’t going to watch Burnley v West Brom, but I will now that Henry’s in the studio”? If they are, they need to take a good look at themselves.
Thierry Henry (right) speaks with Graeme Souness Thierry Henry (right) speaks with Graeme Souness But, if we’re honest, he looked immaculate, if a little monochrome, as he appeared to the strains of Goldfrapp’s “Ooh la la” (presumably “L’Enfant Sauvage” by the French death-metal band Gojira was unavailable).
He had shaved his entire head and it looked as if the make-up people had applied slap to his whole skull in fear of any gloss appearing. Graeme Souness in comparison, sitting next to him all unshaven and creased, looked like a beer connoisseur with a Special Brew specialism.
But far be it for us to conclude that Henry has been brought in merely as eye candy. Less than an hour into his debut, he had already accused Arsenal of having “gone backwards” and had a heated disagreement with Souness about the merits of West Ham’s Alex Song.
Then at half-time during the West Ham game he sent social media into meltdown when he appeared to advocate diving by saying, “if I am touched in the box, I go down”. Before you ask, the angry messages were not concerned with Henry’s Carry On-style innuendo.
But what we were really waiting for was the preamble to City v Arsenal, when Henry would presumably let rip on his former manager, Arsène Wenger. Guess what? He didn’t, although it would have been hard to given the Gunners’ performance. The best we’d got was the “gone backwards” quote. The rest was solid, if not world-changing.
But still, he looked nice, even if he didn’t quite justify the build-up. Then again, few would. Even Elvis.
Independent News Service
It was a good 24 hours for red carpets. In Los Angeles one was rolled out for the high heels of the Golden Globes; in Zurich another was trodden by men more used to wearing studs. Both winners were ultimately given a golden ball.