'People don't like Thierry Henry', says ex-Arsenal man Emmanuel Petit

Thierry Henry At Arsenal

Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit says former Gunners colleague Thierry Henry may be a hero in England, but he is not in his native France.

Surely everyone is a fan of Thierry Henry...aren’t they?

Admittedly he may be held in higher regard by those of an Arsenal persuasion, given all that he achieved during eight memorable years at Highbury and Emirates Stadium and an emotional loan return in 2012.

An astonishing record which took him to the top of the Gunners’ all-time leading goalscorer charts, and the fact that he always played with a smile on his face, saw him taken to the hearts of an English football audience.

Supporters of rival Premier League clubs may have found themselves cursing his ability at regular intervals, but even they will have conceded, rather begrudgingly, that the Frenchman was a remarkable talent.

The only group of people who can rightly claim to have a strong dislike of the flying forward are Irish football followers, given that Henry’s now infamous handball during a World Cup qualifying play-off at Stade de France denied them a place at the 2010 finals.

It would appear, though, that one moment of madness will forever haunt a man who has just called time on a spell at MLS side New York Red Bulls, not just in Ireland but back in his homeland.

Quite astonishingly, a man who helped France to World Cup glory in 1998 and European Championship success in 2000 is not revered as some sort of sporting idol by his own people.

That is according to Emmanuel Petit, who played alongside Henry at Monaco and Arsenal, with the former midfielder claiming that the attitude of the French public to one of their most decorated performers is ‘hypocritical and cowardly’.

He told sports.fr amid talk of a coaching return for Henry at Arsenal and a farewell appearance for the France national side: “Why not, but people don't like Thierry Henry. In England, he has a statue. That says a lot. He is revered over there.

“How can you reproach Thierry Henry? His handball against Ireland? It helped us qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. He's done nothing wrong. France is hypocritical and cowardly. Sometimes I say to myself that having been invaded by the Germans, we would be better led today.”

Strong words from a man who dominated for club and country alongside Patrick Vieira at the height of his playing career.

It is difficult to understand why a country which owes Henry so much would turn their back on him and choose not to celebrate all that he has achieved, as the time comes for him to hang up his boots.

After all, handling the ball to gain an advantage did Diego Maradona no harm, with a controversial figure for many celebrated as a footballing superhero in his native Argentina.

Maybe Henry does not need the support of the land of his birth, though, with there still plenty of people in north London – Arsene Wenger among them – ready to welcome him back to England with open arms.

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch